Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an icon of anti-apartheid revolution, died on Thursday evening, the government announced.
The cause of death was a lung infection that resulted from the tuberculosis contracted while serving 27 years as a political prisoner. Mandela passed away at 8:50 p.m. local time.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” South African President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address on Thursday, “His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him our love.”
According to The New York Times, Mandela spent nearly three decades in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government. He was able to successful forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He then led the African National Congress to an electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the history of South Africa.
Although he served just one term as president, Mandela remained an iconic figure of the power of peaceful resolution and a symbol of the struggle to end South Africa’s codified system of racial domination.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner,” he wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, published four years after his release from prison in 1990.
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