Nelson Mandela dies at 95: Former South African president loses long battle with illness
The world contains many thousands of political prisoners but in the last 50 years only one of them, Nelson Mandela, has turned his imprisonment into a tool to create political change and national liberty.
He accomplished this by intelligence, guile, patience, tolerance for his enemies — and a display of such majestic dignity he commanded the sympathy of the world, even the grudging sympathy of the white South Africans from whom he won power.
To a harsh, cold world he brought a strange and refreshing sweetness. News from Africa was almost always bad, just as it is today, but news involving him always carried a grace note of hope. His gift to everyone was an unquenchable optimism, maintained in the face of appalling conditions. That, and quiet good humour.
He was not the innocent social democrat many of us would have liked him to be. He tolerated the Communist connections of colleagues in the African National Congress (ANC) and at certain times saw serious virtue in Communism. Nor was he a Gandhi. He conspired in acts of violent sabotage when he saw no other way. But at the crucial moment, he knew what to do. (Photo: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)