Nelson Mandela, former South African President and anti-apartheid icon, has passed away peacefully in Johannesburg after a prolonged lung infection. He had been in a hospital ICU before being shifted home. Mandela, the country's first black president, had spent 27 years in apartheid prisons before coming out to guide South Africa through bloodshed and turmoil to democracy.
Mandela would be given a full state funeral, with flags flown at half mast throughout South Africa. He had risen from rural obscurity to challenge the powerful white minority apartheid government - a struggle that saw him emerge as a most respected and loved leader. He had first supported armed resistance to apartheid in 1960, but quickly started preaching reconciliation and forgiveness when the country's white minority started easing its grip on power 30 years later. After his release from the Robbin Island prison, where he spent around three decades, Mandela was elected president in all-race elections in 1994 before he retired in 1999.
He was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader, whose government released him from jail. He was also a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour given by the governmnet of India, for his efforts in promoting Gandhian values outside India.
As president, Mandela faced the huge task of forging a new nation free from the deep racial injustices of the apartheid era, making reconciliation his theme while he was in office. The hallmark of his mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had probed apartheid crimes and tried to heal the country's wounds. It also became a model for other countries troubled by by civil strife.