Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the South African man who would serve a 27-year prison sentence and emerge to become President and lead the anti-apartheid movement, passed away yesterday at the age of 95.
Mandela led an anti-racism campaign against the government that led to his arrest in 1962 and he was indicted after using the trial as another opportunity to deliver the African National Congress political message against apartheid, was sentenced to life imprisonment. There he learned the Afrikaans language and earned a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of London. His release from prison is viewed as a historical event akin to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Mandela’s efforts for reconciliation in South Africa have made him a worldwide symbol for peace and icon of moral authority.
Yesterday, the man known affectionately as “Madiba” by South Africans died of a lung infection in his Johannesburg home while surrounded by his family. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has declared a national period of mourning of 10 days and Mandela’s funeral will be held in FNB Stadium Dec. 10. Beginning yesterday, the world began to mourn the loss of Mandela, including those in the technology community.
Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates reflected on Mandela’s fight against AIDS and his “grace and courage.” In a blog post about what Gates calls “one of his favourite photos,” he reflects on how effective Mandela was at speaking out against the stigma associated with AIDS in the developing world.
Every time Melinda and I met Nelson Mandela, we left more inspired than ever. His grace and courage changed the world. This is a sad day.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) December 5, 2013
In Gates favourite photo, Gates father is pictured with Mandela and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter holding babies at a clinic for those born with HIV. “It sent a powerful message: that people did not need to be afraid of touching a person with HIV,” Gates writes in his blog post.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also paid homage on Twitter:
#RIPNelsonMandela a great Man of leadership, warmth, vision and dedication who changed the future of his country.
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) December 6, 2013
The International Telecommunications Union issued a press release from its Geneva headquarters about Mandela’s passing leaving a deep sense of loss. Secretary General Hamadoun I. Touré expressed his condolences to the bereaved family of Mandela and to the people of South Africa.
“I have personally looked up to Madiba for inspiration, as nothing in the world could ever daunt him or hold him back form his life’s mission to free his compatriots from the yoke of apartheid,” he writes in a statement. “His towering personality will leave a lasting impression on me and the world will forever enjoy the legacy he has left behind in an atmosphere of peace, humility and forgiveness.”
Mandela embraced technology as a catalyst for change and development, the ITU says. While president of South Africa between 1994 to 1999, he spoke at the ITU Telecom World conference opening ceremony to advocate for the expansion of ICT technology. He also hosted ITU Telecom Africa in Johannesburg in 1998. “As the information revolution gathers yet more pace and strikes deeper roots, it is already redefining our understanding of the world. Indeed, the speed of technological innovation could bring the ideal of the global village sooner than we thought possible. For the developing world, this brings both opportunity and challenge,” Mandela said at the time.
Other condolences pour in
In a brief blog post, Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers made a statement on Mandela’s passing:
“Today, Cisco joins the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela was a courageous leader who had the vision and strength of character to help create a brighter future for all citizens of the country he loved so much. In doing so he inspired the world. I, and all of my colleagues at Cisco, send our deepest sympathies to Mr. Mandela’s family and to the people of South Africa.”
Cisco’s Padmasree Warrior, chief technology & strategy officer, also tweeted about the loss:
Tireless advocate for freedom and individual dignity. RIP @NelsonMandela – we feel your loss already
— Padmasree (@Padmasree) December 6, 2013
Gavin Struthers, the senior vice-president of worldwide operations at McAfee had this message on Twitter:
RIP #Mandela, you gave another meaning to power, diverted a catastrophe & taught the world a lesson in humanity. Amandla! Awethu.
— Gavin Struthers (@Gavin_Struthers) December 5, 2013
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt posted this:
In awe of all that Nelson Mandela did to push forward humanity. "It always seems impossible until it's done." #Madiba
— Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) December 5, 2013
Co-founder of micro-lending website Kiva.org Jessica Jackley wrote:
"When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace." #RIPNelsonMandela
— jessicajackley (@jessicajackley) December 6, 2013