UN chief pays tribute to life and legacy of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela

President Nelson Mandela addresses the 49th session of the General Assembly October 1994. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

5 December 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his profound sadness at the passing of Nelson Mandela, extolling the life of the late human rights lawyer, prisoner of conscience, international peacemaker and first democratically-elected President of post-apartheid South Africa as an inspiration for all.

‘Madiba,’ as Mr. Mandela was affectionately known, passed this afternoon at his home in Johannesburg. He was 95.

“Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration,” Mr. Ban said at UN Headquarters in New York.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of South Africa and especially to Nelson Mandela’s family, and indeed our global family.”

Mr. Ban noted that many people worldwide were greatly influenced by Mr. Mandela’s selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. “He touched our lives in deeply personal ways. At the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.”

Ban Ki-moon speaks to correspondents on the death of Nelson Mandela. Credit: UNTV

“Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us – if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity,” said the Secretary-General.

“His moral force was decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid,” said Mr. Ban. “Remarkably, he emerged from 27 years of detention without rancour, determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and reconciliation.”

Mr. Mandela devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity, and he did so at great personal sacrifice, said the Secretary-General, who said he was moved by the late leader’s “selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose” when the two men met in 2009.

“Let us continue each day to be inspired by his lifelong example and his call to never cease working for a better and more just world.”

Recalling his memories of meeting Mr. Mandela, the Secretary-General said he had been deeply touched and inspired. “When I praised him for his lifelong contribution to end apartheid he said ‘It is not only me, but hundreds and hundreds of known and unknown people that contributed.’ That has stuck with me ever since.”


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