Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died today, December 5 2013 at the age of 95, just 5 months after his birthday.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement from Pretoria, stating that Mandela passed away at 8:50pm in his Houghton home surrounded by his wife, Graça Machel and members of his family, adding that he would be given a state funeral, with flags flying at half-mast until then, in his honor.
This sad news comes months after Mandela was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection – a condition that would eventually deteriorate to the point at which he was critical.
Despite assurances from the president that Mandela was in a “serious but stable” condition, South Africans began preparing themselves for what would eventually come to pass, as Mandela’s family members flocked to Johannesburg, and the world shifted its attention the Pretoria hospital where he was being treated.
Known affectionately as Madiba, the globally-loved Mandela, after retiring from from public life 9 years ago, saw his health become increasingly fragile.
His last true public appearance was at the 2010 soccer World Cup.
Mandela, a key figure in the African National Congress, became a global symbol of the struggle against apartheid after he was was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
At the end of his trial, Mandela gave a now iconic speech in which he said: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.“
Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years before he was finally released in 1990 at the age of 71.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, for what the committee described as the “peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”
And a year later, he was elected president in the country’s first democratic election.
He stepped down from the presidency in 1999, but maintained a healthy, busy public life, brokering peaceful negotiations in Rwanda, establishing the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation for educational scholarship, launching the 46664 Aids fundraising foundation, and more.
His death comes just 1 week after a film based on his life opened in theaters – a life that has been, and will continue to be the subject of scripted films and documentaries, I’m sure.
Great black actors like Sidney Poitier, Dennis Haysbert, Morgan Freeman, David Harewood, Terrence Howard and most recently Idris Elba have all played him, whether in projects that were specifically centered around him, or in which others were the focus.
However, in looking over all those films – even those in which his story was the highlight – the narrative typically included his relation to some specific white male character (except for the most recent, starring Idris Elba): for example, in Mandela and de Clerk (Poitier & Michael Caine as de Clerk); in Goodbye Bafana (Haysbert and Ralph Fiennes as a prison guard responsible for Mandela, and the relationship they had); in Invictus (Freeman and Matt Damon as captain of the South African Springboks rugby team).
The new film with Elba is really the only one that I’d call a definitive Nelson Mandela film, which, if you think about it, is a shame, given the long-standing global iconic awareness of the man.
In the next 12 months, there will be others, starting with development of a 6-part TV miniseries aptly titled Madiba, on the life of Nelson Mandela, which will be based on Mandela’s 2 books: Conversations With Myself, and Nelson Mandela By Himself – a significant change, considering that most past films in which Mandela was a character, were based on books written by others.
And most recently, South African film company DV8 Films announced that it will trace Mandela’s years as a guerrilla freedom fighter, in a new docu-drama titled Mandela’s Gun.
Nelson Rolihlahla “Mandiba” Mandela dead at the age of 95.
What an involved, inspiring life.
May his soul rest in peace.