— South African President Jacob Zuma announced the death of national icon Nelson Mandela in a somber address late Thursday, December 5 that was instantly beamed around the world.
Mandela’s life spanned more than nine decades, and he steered the nation out of its darkest days under the racist apartheid regime to the exuberant, democratic Rainbow Nation it is today.
The news came as no surprise - Mandela had been in and out of the hospital for much of this year, and the 95-year-old had lived a challenging and stressful life.
Mandela was once a young firebrand leader of the then-banned African National Congress, which opposed the racist, white-led apartheid regime. Mandela led the group’s armed wing, an act that landed him in prison for 27 years.
Those were his, and South Africa’s, darkest days.
People sing and dance during a gathering of mourners on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Dec. 6, 2013.
A young girl with a poster of Nelson Mandela marches with others to celebrate his life, in the street outside his old house in Soweto, Johannesburg, Dec. 6, 2013.
Township residents march to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela in the street outside his old house in Soweto, Johannesburg, Dec. 6, 2013.
A woman cries as she holds a candle and a flower outside former South African President Nelson Mandela's house in Houghton, Dec. 5, 2013a
A girl holds a South African national flag as people mourn the death of Nelson Mandela outside Cape Town City Hall, Dec. 6, 2013.
Keaton Anderson, 10, poses for a photograph for his father Dijon Anderson as they visit the statue of Nelson Mandela at the South African Embassy in Washington, Dec. 5, 2013.
Newspapers with pictures of Nelson Mandela on the front page on sale in London, Dec. 6, 2013.
Schoolchildren hold candles and portraits of Nelson Mandela during a prayer ceremony at a school in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, Dec. 6, 2013.
A woman with a banner pays tribute to Nelson Mandela outside the South African High Commission in London, Dec. 6, 2013.
People release paper lanterns after lighting them outside Madiba, a restaurant named in honor of Nelson Mandela, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Dec. 5, 2013.
People listen to a radio as South African President Jacob Zuma announces the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Houghton, Dec. 5, 2013.
A man holds candles in front of a mural of former South African President Nelson Mandela and U.S. President Barack Obama in New York, Dec. 5, 2013.
Pedestrians pass beneath the Apollo Theater marquee commemorating the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Dec. 5, 2013.
But the charismatic Mandela managed to keep his resolve and lead his struggle from his jail cell. He emerged triumphant, having helped bring down apartheid and being elected president in the nation’s first all-inclusive elections in 1994.
He served but one presidential term, but it is for his lifelong struggle that he will be remembered - as a fighter and a prisoner turned statesman and peacemaker.
The task of telling the world of his death fell to President Jacob Zuma, a normally jovial leader who could not keep the sadness from his voice as he described the man so many South Africans consider the father of their nation.
"Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own and who saw his cause as their cause. Our nation has lost his greatest son," he said. "Yet what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves and in him we saw so much of ourselves."