Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an international symbol of freedom, died yesterday following a long battle with a respiratory infection. “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Barack Obama said from the White House, “so it falls to us. . . to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.” Here, the dissident, leader and statesman talks at length about his role in South Africa’s struggle for political change in 1993. “April 27th next year. . . that is not just a date when people will vote for a government of their own choice,” Mandela tells journalist Charlie Rose. “It is in fact a date of liberation.”
Mandela’s opposition to apartheid – South Africa’s system of racial segregation – led to a 27-year prison sentense for his association with the African National Congress, a black-rights group that resisted the nation’s white government. “Difficulties break some men but make others,” he wrote in a letter to his wife, Winnie Mandela, on February 1st, 1975. An international campaign led to his release on February 11th, 1990, and negotiations soon followed that led to the dismantling of apartheid and the elevation of Mandela to the presidency.
As chief executive, Mandela enacted a new constitution, appointed a diverse cabinet and established a commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid. He declined to run for a second term, however, and left the presidency in 1999. He later established the Nelson Mandela Foundation to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS and became a vocal critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And though he largely retired from the public eye in 2004, Mandela helped bring the World Cup to South Africa in 2010.