Nelson Mandela Dead at 95: Called "Africa's Greatest Son," All Country Flags Lowered To Half-Mast

Beloved former South African President and anti-Apartheid era activist Nelson Mandela passed away Thursday, at age 95. "Nelson Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed," South African present Jacob Zuma, announced at a press conference Thursday. "He passed peacefully."

"We've lost our greatest son," Zuma added. The President ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half mast until after Mandela's state funeral. Mandela had suffered from a recurring lung infection, and had a history of respiratory illnesses dating back to his 27-year imprisonment for political dissidence against the all-white South African apartheid regime.

Mandela, affectionately called "Mandiba" and "Tata (Father) Mandela," is mourned by the thousands of South Africans who have cheered him as a national hero. The former President's lifelong fight against racism and social injustice earned him a joint Nobel Peace Prize, and a landslide election win in the country's first integrated presidential election in 1994.

"Our thoughts are with the South African people," Zuma said during the announcement, "who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a nation."

Mandela retired from public life in 2004, resurfacing for the World Cup soccer final in South Africa in July 2010. He has been hospitalized a number of times in the past year.

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