By Sarah Mac Donald - 06 December, 2013
South Africans and people around the world are united in grief at the news that former South African president, Nelson Mandela, passed away in the company of his family on Thursday evening aged 95.
In a statement, President Jacob Zuma announced Mr Mandela’s death live on South African television saying, “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
President Zuma described his predecessor as “Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation.”
“He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20:50 on the 5th of December 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace.”
“Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
The Nobel Peace laureate led his country in its non-violent transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s follwing his release on 11 February 1990 from Victor Verster prison after 27 years in prison.
Nelson Mandela was elected president of the ANC in 1991 and immediately began negotiations on a new constitution.
A draft constitution adopted in 1993 which paved the way for South Africa’s first all-race election in April 1994.
That same year Nelsom Mandela and President de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in negotiating an end to apartheid.
In April 1994 the ANC won the election and just over a month later Mr Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president.
Responding to the news his death, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who also campaigned against apartheid, described Nelson Mandela as “amazing gift to humankind.”
He added, “He made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised.”
US President Barack Obama said he was one of the millions who drew inspiration from Mr Mandela’s life.
He said the South African leader “took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”.
In a statement on Thursday night, President Michael D. Higgins offered his sympathies stating that it was “with deepest sadness that I have learned of the death of former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela,” he said.
“On behalf of the people of Ireland, I offer sincere condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.”
“Nelson Mandela is one of history’s greatest leaders; a man whose unprecedented courage and dedication broke down the cruel barriers of apartheid in South Africa and led the nation into a new and democratic age.”
“His journey to the ending of apartheid and into a new chapter in South African and world history was long, hazardous and involved considerable self-sacrifice.”
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has offered sympathies on behalf of the Government and the Irish people to Mr Mandela’s family as well as to the Government and the people of South Africa.
“The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa, but humanity itself.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore said, “Our world is a poorer place for Nelson Mandela’s passing, but a far richer and better place thanks to his life.”
He described the anti-apartheid leader as “a man who holds an extraordinary place in the hearts of the Irish people.”
“Nelson Mandela had a truly global presence. We all feel part of his extended worldwide family, sharing in the sadness at his death and the celebration of his life.”
The Tánaiste’s statement continued, “No few words can express the debt of gratitude that is due to Mr. Mandela for all that he achieved and stood for. Quite simply, he transformed South Africa, and he changed the world.”
“May he rest in peace, and may his values, his hopes, his wisdom and his inspiration live on.”
In his live address on South African television, President Jacob Zuma said confirmed that “Our beloved Madiba will be accorded a state funeral.”
He said he had ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half mast until after the funeral.