Nelson Mandela, the revered icon of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and a towering figure of 20th century politics, died Thursday aged 95.
Through his lifetime, Mandela fought peacefully for black liberation and against apartheid rule in South Africa. He was arrested in 1962 and imprisoned for 27 years under South Africa’s white minority government. After being released in 1990, Mandela was elected president in 1994 and held the office until 1999. One of his last major public appearances was at the World Cup men’s soccer final in Johannesburg in 2010.
The news was announced to the nation and the world by a clearly emotional South African President Jacob Zuma in a live broadcast to the nation. After huddling around radios and televisions to hear the news, South Africans poured onto the streets near his home, walking arm-in-arm to join a crowd of hundreds singing songs celebrating his struggle against apartheid.
Born in July 1918 in the southeastern Transkei region, Mandela carved out a career as a lawyer in Johannesburg in parallel with his political activism.
He became commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the by now-banned ANC, in 1961, and the following year underwent military training in Algeria and Ethiopia.
While underground back home in South Africa, Mandela was captured by police in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison.
He was then charged with sabotage and sentenced in 1964 to life in prison at the Rivonia trial, named after a Johannesburg suburb where a number of ANC leaders were arrested.
He used the court hearing to deliver a speech that was to become the manifesto of the anti-apartheid movement.
He was first sent to prison on Robben Island, where he spent 18 years before being transferred in 1982 to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town and later to Victor Verster prison in nearby Paarl.
When he was finally released on February 11, 1990, walking out of prison with his fist raised alongside his then-wife Winnie.
Ex-prisoner 46664 was entrusted with the task of persuading the new president F.W. de Klerk to call time on the era of racist white minority rule.
Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their role in the ending of apartheid.