The anti-apartheid leader and South African revolutionary has died at the age of 95. Nana-Ekua Brew Hammond remembers the extraordinary life and deeds of the man known as 'Madiba'

by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, December 05, 2013


Nelson Mandela

small and big screen films including 1997’s Mandela and De Klerk with Sidney Poitier in the title role, and the upcoming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom with British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris in the roles of Nelson and Winnie.

Mandela also called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the goal of recording the daily and gross injustices that defined life under Apartheid and beginning the process of healing for many victims. The TRC, launched in 1996, was best known for its hearings in which perpetrators and victims testified of the savage and petty evils of Apartheid. Offenders who could prove their actions were politically motivated could apply for amnesty. (5,392 amnesty applications out of 7,112 were refused.)

In 1998, Mandela wed the former First Lady of Mozambique, Graça Simbine Machel. Machel was a freedom fighter in her own right, and fought for her country’s independence from the Portuguese as a member of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo).

At the end of his first term, Mandela retired from active politics; succeeding the presidency to Thabo Mbeki. In the years that followed, Mandela’s international stature rose even more.

In 2002, he started 46664—taken from his prison number (prisoner number 466 of 1964)—an initiative to raise global awareness and funds toward prevention of HIV/AIDS. In 2005, Mandela’s second born son Makgatho died of complications from AIDS.

On his 89th birthday, Mandela convened a group of world leaders called "The Elders" which included his wife, human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others to address the world's toughest issues. The group exists to demand an end to atrocities around the world, support initiatives to address humanitarian crises, and promote democracy, peace, and women's equality.

Mandela wrote several books, among them: 1994’s Long Walk to Freedom, 2010’s Conversations with Myself, 2011’s Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorized Book of Quotations and the children’s book Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales.

At 91, his birthday was declared Mandela Day in South Africa.

Mandela returned to his native Qunu to live out his last years with family in relative peace, but there were some interruptions to the tranquility he sought. His great-granddaughter was tragically killed in a car accident on June 11, 2010.

From January 2011 to June 2013, he was admitted to the hospital on four separate occasions for lung infection—his father died of lung disease—not including a brief hospitalization to undergo surgery for a stomach ailment. In May 2013, Mandela’s daughters Makaziwe and Zenani filed suit against their father for the rights to his artworks and control of his millions.

In spite of the money squabble, Makaziwe and Zenani joined sister Zindzi who is South Africa’s Ambassador to Argentina, as well as Machel and Winnie at their father’s bedside at Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. They survive him as do 17 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren—and the millions of South Africans who no longer need a pass to travel freely around their own country or otherwise experience legally-sanctioned mistreatment for the skin they are in.

The troublemaker, champion, and founder of the council who was called "Madiba" after his Xhosa clan now rests in peace, having lived up to his name.

Addressing the world President Jacob Zuma

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

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