Nelson Mandela dies peacefully at 95 at his Johannesburg home

MandelaNelson Mandela, the country's first black president and anti-apartheid icon, emerged from 27 years in apartheid prisons to help guide South Africa through bloodshed and turmoil to democracy.

Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his Johannesburg home on Thursday after a prolonged lung infection, South African President Jacob Zuma said.

"Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rohlihla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed," Zuma said in a nationally televised address.

"Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity, earned him their love," he added.

Nelson Mandela will receive a full state funeral. In mourning, national flags will be flown at half mast.

Nelson Mandela rose from rural obscurity to challenge the might of white minority Apartheid government - a struggle that gave the 20th century one of its most respected and loved figures.

He was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid in 1960, but was quick to preach reconciliation and forgiveness when the country's white minority began easing its grip on power 30 years later.

Charged with capital offences in the infamous 1963 Rivonia Trial after the hideout of African National Congress had been compromised, his statement from the dock was his political testimony. Turned out in traditional African attire, he delivered his powerful, moving speech to a visibly spell-bound crowd.

Despite the justness of his cause that was supported by people worldwide, he remained for 27 years at the prison in Robben Island along with several of his anti-Apartheid movement companions. Generations of protestors rose and fell holding his example close to their bosoms during the long, dark and abusive years on the prison island.

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination", were the magisterial words spoken by Madiba that propelled the country through its darkest Apartheid hour.

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