THERE has been an outpouring of tributes and condolences from leaders and social media users around the world after South African President Jacob Zuma this morning announced that Nelson Mandela has died, aged 95.
While he is best remembered for his sacrifice and tremendous victory in the fight against racial prejudice and hate in South Africa, and breaking down the country’s infamous apartheid when he became president, he is also remembered as a leader of the African world in fighting for LGBTI rights and his contribution to HIV and AIDS awareness.
Mandela led South Africa to become the first country on the continent to ban antigay discrimination in 1998. He was also a leader for marriage equality, supporting it almost two decades ago. South Africa eventually become the first country in Africa and fifth in the world to legalise marriage equality in 2006.
Mandela also appointed gay people to high positions in South African politics, such as Edwin Cameron, who became a judge on South Africa’s highest court.
While homophobia is still a huge issue, if it weren’t for Mandela and his fight for equality and anti-discrimination, South Africa would not be setting the example it does today for the rest of Africa – and the world.
When it came to HIV and AIDS, Mandela was late to the fight. Nonetheless, after he announced to the world in 2005 that his 54-year-old son had died from AIDS, he became more involved in raising awareness and defying the stigma and shame surrounding AIDS across Africa, a continent where an estimated 26 million people live with HIV or AIDS.
Mandela, the South Africa’s first black president and Nobel Peace Prize prize winner, died peacefully in Johannesburg home after a prolonged lung infection. A state funeral will be held in honour of him.
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