Nelson Mandela, whose successful struggle against South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation and discrimination made him a global symbol for the cause of human rights and earned him the Nobel Prize, died Thursday. He was 95.
Mandela, who had been hospitalized in recent weeks in Pretoria with a serious lung infection, was revered for his fostering of democracy in the country he served as president from 1994 to 1999 after spending 27 years in prison during the apartheid system. He took over as president four years after being released from jail.
Mandela’s reputation grew to include his ability to inspire sports teams to victory simply with his presence, known as “Madiba magic.”
Tragically, he kept a low profile during the 2010 World Cup after his great-granddaughter was killed in an automobile accident following a concert to kick off the opening night of the event.
After much anticipation and speculation that he would remain absent as his family continued to mourn the 13-year-old Zenani Mandela, he attended the World Cup’s closing ceremonies amid a thunderous mix of vuvuzelas and roars from the crowd.
Mandela’s presence at the 1995 rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg, when South Africa upset New Zealand following years of exile from international sport, was widely seen as the moment when South Africans truly were united, a year after he had taken office.