This morning, the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, a magnificent human rights hero, who died yesterday at the age of 95, surrounded by his family.
He was championed as the man who changed the history of South Africa forever to become the first black president in 1994.
Nelson Mandela had been suffering ill-health for a number of years and died from a lung complication, which has been linked to his time incarcerated on Robben Island, over two decades ago.
Mandela was incarcerated, under apartheid, in the infamous Robben Island prison for 27 years and was made to work in the prison’s quarry.
‘He is now resting. He is now at peace,’ South African President Jacob Zuma said when he announced the death. ‘Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.’
Later he added: ‘What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.’
For nearly 30 years, the former president fought for equal rights amongst the people of South Africa and spoke out about homophobia numerous times.
He supported gay South Africans and helped make South Africa the first African nation to enshrine LGBT rights into the Country’s constitution.
South Africa was the 5th nation to legalise same-sex marriage and remains the only African nation to allow gay marriage.
Speaking about gay marriage Mandela said:
‘I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, the Nobel Peace Prize winner explained,
‘Just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.’
Nelson Mandela also paved the way for greater HIV protections and healthcare changes in South Africa.
Paul Ward, Acting Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Nelson Mandela’s inspirational leadership has been as important in the fight against HIV as anti-HIV treatments. Whenever he addressed a World AIDS Conference, no one could fail to be moved to action. The ideals he stood for – freedom, compassion, and the universal human right to love, life and happiness – struck a chord at a time when people with HIV, myself included, were facing unacceptable levels of prejudice and discrimination. Nelson Mandela was one of the few world leaders who stood shoulder to shoulder with people with HIV, and the legacy of that will continue to be felt not only in South Africa, but in countries and communities worldwide.’