Human rights defender Nelson Mandela dies aged 95

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

South African human rights campaigner Nelson Mandela died today at the age of 95.

The announcement was made by South African President Jacob Zuma this evening. He said that in the last few hours of his life, Mandela was surrounded by his family.

Mandela had been receiving care in hospital for a lung infection

Mandela was a Nobel Peace Prize winner who led the battle against white-minority rule in South Africa, of which he was the first black president, elected in 1994 after 27 years in prison on Robben Island.

After the Civil Union Act came into effect in South Africa on 30 November 2006, the island became one of the first places to host a civil union ceremony.

Mr Zuma said: “He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20:50 on the 5th December 2013,

“He is now resting, he is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day would come nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude. They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free.”

The legendary human rights campaigner helped push for equality for gay South Africans, and helped to make South Africa the continent of Africa’s first and so far only country with same-sex marriage.

He declined his second term in 1999, instead focussing his time on work combating HIV and AIDS, and poverty through his charitable foundation.

Also speaking out against homophobia internationally, he retired from public life in 2004.

Speaking on human rights, Mandela said: “I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom… Just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”