In his decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others. As word of Mandela’s death spread Thursday, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers and people around the world spoke out about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.
Dressed in black, South African President Jacob Zuma made the announcement on television. He said Mandela died “peacefully,” surrounded by family, about 8:50 p.m.
“We’ve lost our greatest son. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” Zuma said. “Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
South Africans reacted to Mandela’s death with deep sadness at the loss of a man considered by many to be the father of the nation.
Mourners also said it is a time to celebrate the achievements of the country’s iconic former president and anti-apartheid leader.
One Johannesburg resident, 31-year-old Hamsa Moosa, said after the 95-year-old Mandela died Thursday night he “wouldn’t be free” if not for the man affectionately known by his clan name “Madiba.”
A 29-year-old accountant, Thumelo Madikwe, said Mandela played his role in the world “very well” and he lived a long life.
Globally, some such as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had personal connections with Mandela. The two worked closely through a group of global leaders — The Elders — that Mandela formed in 2007 to promote human rights.
Others only knew Mandela from afar but shared how they drew strength from his strength and looked to live his message of continuing the struggle against social injustice and for human rights.