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Mourning Nelson Mandela

(This article expired 07.12.2014.)

Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former President of the Republic of South Africa, died on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95. The Embassy of the Czech Republic to South Africa wishes to express the deepest condolences for the passing away of President Mandela, who belonged to the most prominent personalities of the history of the 20th century and will always remain a symbol of democratic South Africa and of national reconciliation.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in Transkei to the Madiba clan. He devoted his whole life to the fight for political, social and economic rights of the black majority in South Africa. For a number of years he was imprisoned for his convictions, in 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment and was jailed in the prison on Robben Island. In the 1980s he already became a well-known symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle.

In February 1990 the then South African government legalised all formerly banned political parties and on 11 February 1990 Mandela was unconditionally released. Almost immediately he joined the negotiations on the termination of apartheid and on democratic transition of power. His work was instrumental for the successful closing of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), where the agreement was reached on multiracial general elections, an interim constitution, an establishment of a coalition government of national unity and a constitutional assembly. For the peaceful process Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

After the first multiracial elections Nelson Mandela was elected the first black President of the Republic of South Africa on 10 May 1994. He saw national reconciliation as his primary task. His other priorities were economic stabilisation and social programmes aimed at poverty alleviation. His government adopted a number of key laws for the functioning of multiracial democratic society. In the foreign policy President Mandela always supported diplomatic conflict resolution and national reconciliation, based on the South African experience.

In 2004, aged 85 and with failing health, President Mandela retired from public life. He spent most time in Qunu village. He commented from time to time on issues and also supported the campaign for South Africa to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. One of his last public appearances was during its closing ceremony. From 2011 he suffered several infections, mainly of the lungs.

In 2009 the UN General Assembly proclaimed Mandela´s birthday, 18 July, as Mandela Day. It called on individuals to donate 67 minutes to doing something for others, commemorating the 67 years that Mandela was a part of liberation struggle.

Nelson Mandela was married three times and had six children. He married his last wife, Graça Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique, on his 80th birthday.

Nelson Mandela visited Czechoslovakia in May 1992 and was met by the then President of Czechoslovakia Václav Havel. Václav Havel is often called “European Nelson Mandela”. Both former Presidents shared a similar fate, spent a number of years in prison and fought hard for the human rights in their countries and elsewhere in the world. They both had charismatic personalities, with high moral credit and were reconciliating. Both were denied formal education, one for his so-called bourgeois origin, the other for his race.