By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Former president of South Africa and one of the world’s greatest leaders, Nelson Mandela died on Thursday afternoon. ‘Madiba,’ as Mandela was affectionately known, passed at his home in Johannesburg. He was 95 years old.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chair, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said the world has lost democracy's most loyal friend and advocate.
“The world has lost a freedom fighter and statesman with the death of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela,” Persad-Bissessar said in a statement.
She noted that Mandela was the 20th century icon of freedom and liberty, who inspired all to believe that no obstacle is too large.
"He inspired us to believe that no obstacle is too large; no walk is too long, and no enemy of freedom is so powerful, that we should ever consider giving in,” she said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his profound sadness at Mandela’s passing, extolling the life of the late human rights lawyer, prisoner of conscience, international peacemaker and first democratically-elected president of post-apartheid South Africa as an inspiration for all.
“Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration,” Ban said at UN Headquarters in New York.
Ban noted that many people worldwide were greatly influenced by Mandela’s selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. “He touched our lives in deeply personal ways. At the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.”
“Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us – if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity,” said the secretary-general.
“His moral force was decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid,” said Ban. “Remarkably, he emerged from 27 years of detention without rancour, determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and reconciliation.”
“Let us continue each day to be inspired by his lifelong example and his call to never cease working for a better and more just world,” Ban said.
Recalling his memories of meeting Mandela, the secretary-general said he had been deeply touched and inspired. “When I praised him for his lifelong contribution to end apartheid he said ‘It is not only me, but hundreds and hundreds of known and unknown people that contributed.’ That has stuck with me ever since.”
The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza also expressed his “deep sorrow” on Thursday over the passing of the former president of South Africa.
“Mandela is a hero of our time,” said Insulza, “a man who marked an unsurpassed milestone of dedication and consistency in world history, and who defended his ideas with no regard for the physical pain or the consequences to his health of the punishments he received as a result.”
“Perhaps because he loved life, he was able to offer it up to achieve freedom and human dignity,” he said.
The OAS leader added that Mandela "will be remembered not only for his leadership in the liberation of his people and the African continent, but also for his message of tolerance and humanity, an example for all those around the world fighting for freedom, democracy and respect for human rights."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said a light has gone out in the world.
“A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time,” he said.
US President Barack Obama said Mandela took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.
"Let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived -- a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice,” he said.
Former prime minister of Australia Julia Gillard believes the freedom fighter’s passing should trigger a celebration for victory over prejudice and hate.
“The world has lost a great man. As we grieve for Nelson Mandela we should also celebrate his tremendous victory over prejudice and hate,” she said.
The global icon came to the Caribbean in 2004 when he sought to secure votes for South Africa to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He visited Trinidad and Tobago at the invitation of former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president, Jack Warner.
After his successful fight in ending the apartheid, it was Mandela’s dream to see the prestigious world soccer tournament played in Africa. He admitted to the media that he had wished this for South Africa and wanted this dream materialized before he died.
A brief history of Nelson Mandela (BBC News):
1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1943 Joined African National Congress
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial
1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving the country without a passport; sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Won Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Stepped down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retired from public life