Former South African President and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, known for his relentless stance against apartheid, has died at his Johannesburg home from a prolonged lung infection. He was 95.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” South African President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday in a nationally televised address. “Nelson Mandela brought us together. And it is together that we will bid him farewell. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.”
Zuma said that South Africa’s first black president will receive a state funeral, and flags will be lowered to half-mast from Dec. 6 until after the funeral.
Mandela, who was unable to speak in his final months because of tubes that helped keep his lungs clear of fluid, had been living in his home, which had begun to resemble an ICU ward, former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told the Sunday Independent, according to the Associated Press. Mandela was under the care of some 22 doctors at his home, she added.
He had returned home on Sept. 1 in critical condition after being in a Pretoria hospital for almost three months—the fourth time he had been admitted to hospital since December. He had battled a series of lung infections and respiratory illnesses in the past few years.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison after being found guilty of being sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow his country’s government before being released in 1990, became South Africa’s first democratically elected president, holding office from 1994 to 1999.