Nelson Mandela, race, LGBT and human rights hero, died today (5 December).
South Africa’s first black president, 95, had been battling health problems for several months including recurring lung infections.
In the last few hours of his life, Mandela was surrounded by his family.
‘He is now resting. He is now at peace,’ South African President Jacob Zuma said in announcing the death. ‘Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.’
Zuma added in a late-night address: ‘What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.’
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is believed to have suffered damage to his lungs while working in a prison quarry.
Under apartheid, Mandela led the fight against white minority rule in South Africa.
He then preached reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
In 1994, Mandela was elected as the country’s first democratically elected president.
He created the Rainbow Nation – a South Africa where gay rights and equal marriage was enshrined in the constitution. To this day, it is the only country in the continent with marriage equality.
Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal, said in a statement to Gay Star News that Mandela was ‘one of the 20th century’s giants in the struggle for justice and human dignity.’
‘Every one of us who continues the fight for equality and civil rights in our own communities labors in the shadows of this man who withstood imprisonment as a consequence of his courageous leadership and grew only stronger, more resolute and more dignified,’ Cathcart said.
When he declined a second term in 1999, Mandela focused on charitable work in combating poverty, HIV and AIDS through his foundation.
On human rights, Mandela said: ‘I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me.
‘The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.’