Former South African leader Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95

Last Updated: 06/12/13 12:16am

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We pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, who sadly passed away aged 95.

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Former South African leader Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.

The anti-apartheid icon had been receiving medical care for a lung infection at his home.

Mandela spent his final months surrounded by family after being released from hospital following a three-month stay and passed away peacefully.

In a televised address, South African president Jacob Zuma said: "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.

"What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."
South Africa president Jacob Zuma

"What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."

One of the world's most revered statesmen, Mandela led the struggle to end apartheid and establish a multi-racial democracy in South Africa, spending 27 years in jail before being released in 1990.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected his country's first black president in 1994.

A year later he provided one of the defining sporting images of the 20th century at the 1995 Rugby World Cup - the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid.

The hosts beat New Zealand 15-12 in the final, but the result itself would become a footnote.

Inspiration

Before the match, Mandela urged black South Africans to get behind the team and stunned the crowd and television audience by walking onto the field in a Springbok jersey - the old symbol of oppression - inspiring chants of 'Nelson! Nelson!' around the stadium.

He was on the field again after the game, presenting the William Webb Ellis trophy to South Africa skipper Francois Pienaar in a symbolic moment of racial unity that had been unthinkable just a few weeks before.

Mandela, who repeatedly said sport had the power "to change the world ... to inspire ... to unite people", had ensured just that.

He didn't stop there; Mandela was personally involved in the campaign to bring the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

The tragic death in a car crash of his 13-year-old great-granddaughter, Zenani, prevented him from being present at the opening ceremony in 2010, but the tournament was a huge success, with large crowds and none of the predicted organisational problems.

By now Mandela's health was deteriorating, but he was at the closing ceremony to wave to the crowd and celebrate the biggest sporting event Africa had ever seen.

He was treated in hospital several times in his last three years, having had long-standing respiratory infections after contracting tuberculosis while in jail on Robben Island in the 1980's.

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