December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, beloved South African statesman, dies at 95

The death of the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner closes the final chapter in South Africa’s struggle to cast off apartheid.

By Christopher Torchia And Marcus Eliason
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 3)

click image to enlarge

Nelson Mandela, newly elected as president of South Africa, and his wife, Winnie, greet the crowd on July 7, 1991, after arriving at a rally and a weeklong national African National Congressconference held inside South Africa for the first time in 30 years. Mandela has died at age 95.

1991 Associated Press File Photo

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Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at age 95.

2005 Associated Press File Photo

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“Incidentally, you may find that the cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself, to search realistically and regularly the process of your own mind and feelings,” he wrote in 1975 to Winnie Mandela, a prominent activist in her own right who was in a separate jail at that time.

Mandela turned down conditional offers of freedom during his decades in prison. In 1989, P.W. Botha, South Africa’s hard-line president, was replaced by de Klerk, who recognized apartheid’s end was near. Mandela continued, even in his last weeks in prison, to advocate nationalizing banks, mines and monopoly industries — a stance that frightened the white business community.

But talks were already underway, with Mandela being spirited out of prison to meet white government leaders. After his release, he took charge of the ANC, and was elected president in a landslide in South Africa’s first all-race election.

Perceived successes during Mandela’s tenure include the introduction of a constitution with robust protections for individual rights, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he established with fellow Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It allowed human rights offenders of all races to admit their crimes publicly in return for lenient treatment. Though not regarded as wholly successful, it proved to be a kind of national therapy that would become a model for other countries emerging from prolonged strife.

Despite his saintly image, Mandela was sometimes a harsh critic. When black journalists mildly criticized his government, he painted them as stooges of the whites who owned the media. Some whites with complaints were dismissed as pining for their old privileges.

In the buildup to the Iraq War, Mandela harshly rebuked President George W. Bush. “Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly?” he asked in a speech. “All that (Bush) wants is Iraqi oil.” He suggested Bush and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair were racists, and claimed America, “which has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world,” had no moral standing.

Until Bush repealed the order in 2008, Mandela could not visit the U.S. without the secretary of state certifying that he was not a terrorist.

To critics of his closeness to Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi despite human rights violations in the countries they ruled, Mandela explained that he wouldn’t forsake supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle.

To the disappointment of many South Africans, he increasingly left the governing to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who won the next presidential election and took over when Mandela’s term ended in 1999.

“I must step down while there are one or two people who admire me,” Mandela joked at the time. When he retired, he said he was going to stand on a street with a sign that said: “Unemployed, no job. New wife and large family to support.”

His marriage to Winnie Mandela had fallen apart after his release and he married Graca Machel, the widowed former first lady of neighboring Mozambique.

With apartheid vanquished, Mandela turned to peacemaking efforts in other parts of Africa and the world and eventually to fighting AIDS, publicly acknowledging that his own son, Makgatho, had died of the disease.

Mandela’s final years were marked by frequent hospitalizations as he struggled with respiratory problems that had bothered him since he contracted tuberculosis in prison.

He stayed in his rural home in Qunu in Eastern Cape province, where Hillary Clinton, then U.S. secretary of state, visited him in 2012, but then moved full-time to his home in Johannesburg so he could be close to medical care in Pretoria, the capital.

His three surviving children are daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second.

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