Remembering Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013, And His Legacy

Former South Africa president Nelson Mandela died Thursday at his home in Johannesburg after a prolonged lung infection. News of the anti-apartheid icon's death resonated across the world. Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, spent 27 years in prison for his work to end South Africa's brutal apartheid system before becoming the country's first black president and preaching reconciliation and forgiveness.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us now. She's in Lagos, Nigeria, today. But from the time that Mandela fell ill, she was in South Africa and stayed for quite sometime.

And, Ofeibea, first, what happens now? Will there be a state funeral, a national day of mourning? What's likely to happen?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: In his address to the South African nation, President Jacob Zuma did announce that there would be a period of mourning, with a funeral probably expected in Saturday week. So, next Saturday. He said that all flags were to fly at half-staff. And he described the loss of Nelson Mandela as the loss of a father. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Yet, what made Nelson Mandela great, said President Zuma, was precisely what made him human.

SIEGEL: You were in South Africa after Mandela was ill. And we knew, he was 95, the end was near. From your reporting, it did seem as though South Africans felt that a member of their family, a father, was on his deathbed. Was it...

QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, very much. Very much so. When I arrived in March, when he first went to hospital, at the hospital, many people were (unintelligible) to talk about Nelson Mandela dying. But by the time I left in July, August, many South Africans had come to terms that this is a man who has given his life for us - Nelson Mandela and the veterans of the ANC struggle.

If he is ready to go, then we musn't be selfish. We must let Nelson Mandela go. We must remember what he did for us, what he did for our nation, the Rainbow Nation, as Nelson Mandela called South Africa.

SIEGEL: Ofeibea, you cover a continent, and you're in Nigeria today. Did the feeling for Mandela extend far beyond the borders of South Africa?

QUIST-ARCTON: Way beyond the borders of South Africa, all across the continent, a continent that he had traveled to extensively since his release from prison in 1990. And, of course, he did some military training in the north of Africa.

No, Nelson Mandela was not only a hero and a father figure for South Africans, but for many, many Africans, especially those who had independence, but who felt that he symbolized much, much more, as I say, forgiveness, bringing people together, a man who was in stature, tall, dignified, with is gray and white hair, his beautiful smile, his sense of humor. A man who had time for everyone, from a road sweeper to a king.

Nelson Mandela was the same way to everyone with love, with amusement and with humility. And I think that's what many Africans across this continent are going to remember him for as they say rest in peace.

SIEGEL: Ofeibea, thank you so much. That's NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton on today's news of the death at age 95 of Nelson Mandela.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.