South African Peace Leader Nelson Mandela Dead at Age 95

Mandela was hailed as the icon of the anti-apartheid movement, survived 27 years in prison.
3:00 | 12/05/13

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Transcript for South African Peace Leader Nelson Mandela Dead at Age 95
This is an ABC news special report her. Nelson Mandela. -- -- The world's -- And good afternoon from ABC news headquarters here in New York for 46 here in the. South Africa seven hours ahead of us and we just learned from the president of South Africa Jacob Zuma telling the people of South Africa that he has departed of course he was talking about one of the world's most beloved leader's. Nelson Mandela of course a champion for human rights a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and guiding hope for millions learning just moments ago that he has passed on. Nelson Mandela had been in critical condition battling serious health issues for almost a year. He'd been in and out of the hospital of course back in September and -- was able to return to his home in Johannesburg where he lived out his final days. Let's take a listen to what president Zuma told the people of South Africa. Just moments ago. -- -- -- Missing footage -- someone -- The fund in. What -- could Diggnation. As the or one. The company all of these family. Didn't do. On the -- -- -- -- Crittenton. Who. He's now. Our nation. -- -- -- He's great because some. -- -- -- -- -- -- The boom. Reunion. But this day would come. Nothing hidden. -- -- -- -- Corporate profile. -- -- -- -- -- He's -- us. Will be doing. And him that his facts. Won't do. These human dignity. Musical -- -- And these two months. And didn't. I was Phillips and -- -- -- -- To them people who. But this book about its. They have sacrificed months. And endured months. So that's our people. Would be pretty. South African president Jacob -- there addressing the people of South Africa and the world. About the death of Nelson Mandela saying he passed away a short time ago in the company of several members of his family. He spoke of his tireless struggle for freedom -- earning the respect. Around the world using the words and dignity compassion to describe Mandela who was so beloved around the world he -- 95 years old this past summer. But had been virtually out of public view with the same time a drawn out family feud played out over -- final resting place but in the end we would see members of his family. Going to the hospital to visit Mandela go into his home spending days and weeks upon weeks at his bedside. I want to bring in yet Alex more port -- correspondent in South Africa he's in Johannesburg at this hour and Alex this country has been preparing for this. For for so long now but it must not be easy to say goodbye to a global life. -- -- -- Agnes that this country will feel it is just before midnight -- many people are already asleep they'll wake up to this. Huge and extremely -- news. This country has indeed been preparing I've been coming to the South Africa for a long time to cover Nelson Mandela. And to some extent this country was ready for him to pass on many south Africans have told me. That they just want to see him go peacefully. And that that is indeed what has happened tonight. But we're going to be hearing a lot of what president Zuma that night in the coming days. He would not only degrade its own -- South Africa but many people around the world felt the same way he was such a beacon for hope. Beacon for freedom -- true icon. Such a beacon for hope as you mentioned Alex he spent 27 years in prison as a leader in the struggle against South Africa's racist apartheid policies he. Emerged of course is -- a powerful symbol of racial unity becoming that nation's first black president and guiding its transition to democracy. We have several correspondents were going to be weighing in on the death of Nelson Mandela but first a look back at his life from Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts. Yeah. -- -- has been my great privilege when both side. -- -- wasn't aren't very hunting humans system. You follow. This -- -- to hold all those below the bridge Dublin doctor. Nelson Mandela. His name synonymous with the struggle and eventual triumph over South Africa's legacy -- a hard time. I'm national treasure celebrated by the crowds at the World Cup finals in his home country. It was the last time many saw Mandela in public. In May of 2012 we would see -- presented with a ceremonial torch to mark the 100 anniversary. Of the African National Congress his political party that led South Africa's anti apartheid movement. A former boxer Mandela was an advocate of nonviolence. Becoming a leading voice in the African National Congress the agency. But -- 1960s. After police shot and killed 69 protesters. The ANC which has always been nonviolent created a military -- -- -- command. And -- and a bit goofy. But it is useless and -- future. Well after -- didn't -- -- peace and nonviolence. Are gains that government it was a surprise. Is on its profits tax. Undaunted by the brutality and inequality that was a hallmark of a -- -- rule. Mandela remained determined to end the government's forced racial segregation. What struck you -- did not he didn't. With the equity. A struggle that led to Mandela's imprisonment in 1962. And two years later a life sentence for working to overthrow the government. I have kept the idea or a Democrat and -- -- -- development kit for which I hope we keep. And to -- -- but result it -- be legitimate -- corporate I am prepared to die. Four miles off the coast of Cape Town South Africa on Robben Island Mandela spent most of 27 years cut off from the world. But not forgotten. -- it. Mr. Nelson -- will be released at the big step for step. Released at the age of seventy to 1990. He remained ever vigilant. That this country and its freedoms -- in the hands of the people. We're. Right here. -- -- -- And for the people of South Africa. Mandela's release after nearly thirty years of imprisonment ushered in a new era of home and the end of a hard time. The -- the ideals that -- -- Bob -- In 1993. Mandela along with South Africa's president FW -- Won the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994 Mandela's dream was realized when black south Africans cast their first ballots. In a democratic election and Mandela became South Africa's first black president. There are so popular. We have had that would fight. My knowledge this is it time to heal old wounds and -- -- -- After ruling for five years -- Nelson Mandela passed the torch to the next generation and became an elder statesmen to the world health fighter. Of -- there. The voice of his people had a moral compass we'll -- I have -- forget what happened. -- headed our -- Good Friday afternoon. -- really bad. I've had not the airline. -- are up episode. Maybe they have been well. Extraordinary look back at the life of an extraordinary -- thanks to Robin Roberts this afternoon and I wanted to show you these images from 1994 these were. Quite something to see and they were the famous aerial images of the first elections to take place so many people in line not only to vote for Nelson Mandela but as you look at this. These were people who were voting in the first election that they were being allowed to vote -- ever the first democratic elections in South Africa's history in fact April of 94 as you can see they lined the townships much of -- -- for the chance the opportunity to vote for the man. So calmly sat in that prison for 27 years waiting for a chance to be freed in. When he was freed many of the speeches that he gave was in the language of the Afrikaners who had. Imprisoned him. That was one of the goals that he achieved on his own -- personal those years he often said that. You can speak to someone that if you speak to them using their language it will resonate it will reach their mind even beyond their heart he was 75 years old when he was. Elected president of South Africa and as he. Decided to transition from his public life his trademark humor. As he talks to not only South Africa -- but to the world in describing why was he wanted to begin to live a more private life. Returning to the family that he promised all those years in prison he would be able to spend his final years of his life and take a look at Nelson Mandela did the more humorous side as he. Began to say -- I several years back take -- -- Hard to reluctant -- door right away don't. And that probably. Not Terence Roth. I wept openly in the positives above -- and -- to a possible whether I want the world come. Brother Scott didn't carved up on the outdoor things. -- not dissipate. If that's. You know appeared to have -- use. -- color me. -- Don't call me I'll call you his words and you heard the laughter there are want to bring in our senior national correspondent Byron Pitts. And Byron you and I were talking about this story several years back he was not elected president yet but was freed his first trip to America. And you meet him on the streets of Boston yes he was in Boston for the agency to raise money and to think his supporters and there. I have -- Simon of staking out the hotel where he was staying 4 o'clock in the morning Vincent a good sign at the time. And all of a sudden I see this gentleman walking on the street as I'm walking industry and I I -- for and I look. And he turns and meanest gentle way and says. Yes -- With that beautiful baritone voice and thinking as a reporter and and us mr. -- I don't wanna take much of your time sir. If I can ask you one question. What is the one thing in life you know -- -- He -- -- and said the one thing in life I know for sure is this. Good and evil are constantly at war and Goodman -- Nelson Mandela chose. A change the world changes. David thinking about this moment -- as many wonderful -- he said not long after his release from prison. I can rest only for a moment for with freedom comes responsibilities. And I did not linger for my long walk is not yet and. -- and a short time ago president Jacob movement telling -- Africa and the world. That we have lost I'm really a global icon of peace and we want to take a look at live pictures coming out of South Africa at this hour this is outside the home. -- Nelson Mandela spent his final weeks have you heard Byron their talk about a very humble man shortly after his release from prison his first trip to America. And here was a young reporter on the streets of Boston approaching him and he said nodding yes I am Nelson Mandela and it was not long we traveled to South Africa along with the First Lady Michelle Obama -- was -- opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela in his waning days. She brought her daughters -- -- Sasha and Malia. And here's what Michelle Obama told me shortly after meeting Nelson Mandela. What was it like in that room. It's surreal something I never thought would happen in my lifetime for me it was. Powerful because his presence in of itself it's powerful. What did you -- it and I told a news. You cannot imagine how -- Important -- legacy is to who I am to who my husband is I just said thank you thank you. Thank you. That's -- with me thank you thank you thank you the first lady of the United States telling Nelson Mandela during her trip. Just a couple of years back to South Africa shortly after she became First Lady here in America I want -- -- chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran. Who joins us now from our London bureau in -- this is very much of global -- the world are mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela. Well. No question about it -- did this is -- this is a man who as Jacob Zuma the president of South Africa said was the founder. That democratic Republic of South Africa -- Africa is an old country but its democracy is very young and it was Nelson Mandela. Who created that democracy and that. It was the miracle. That astonished the world and made him such a world figure he it was he was well known while he was in prison. But when he came out of prison there was a great question what would happen in the revolution in South Africa would -- be a terrible bloodbath. Would they get through the passage to democracy from. Here and it's a part time and it was because of Nelson Mandela. And his character. That they did and the world recognized. A peacemaker. And he developed. A moral stature in the world. That helped him. Brings South Africa back into the world community helped it reintegrated into the world economy and also helped him to play a role. In various hotspots around the world I remember when he came to the White House a couple of times of course he was very close to President Bill Clinton. And frankly couldn't stand the policies of president George W. Bush which he saw as. Imperialistic. And that was a bit of a PR problem for the bush White House. Of course he's on the election of Barack Obama the kind of change. Towards a multi racial society that that he saw on South Africa as well so it wasn't just. In South Africa the Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary. It was his moral stature around the world and the way he used it that. Made a difference. There was tremendous respect from leaders around the world from Nelson Mandela terrier thanks -- you -- the first. -- quotes are coming in from a president's in this country president George W. Bush releasing a statement just a moment ago Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world. In celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela president Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens -- dignity. And with rates. And our world is better off because of his example -- that from president George W. Bush just a short time ago I want to bring in our chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl. And John certainly President Obama has been made aware of the news of the lost this afternoon are we hearing anything yet from the president. The White House is well aware of this obviously this is something they've been tracking for a long time no official statement yet. I expect when shortly but I can tell you David Nelson Mandela was a towering influence on President Obama inspiration. If you look right now on the screen that is. He won -- only photograph of -- Obama and Mandela together. It happened from the one time that Obama got to meet his hero was when he was a young freshman senator. Newly elected senator and Mandela was visiting Washington he had that meeting the single photo -- you can see Obama in silhouettes. The president. Back -- when he was Senator Obama wrote a forward to a book by Nelson Mandela and the words here -- give you a sense and and by the way that the pictures you're seeing right now that is. The president in the cell. Where Nelson Mandela spent seventeen. Years. In prison on Robben Island in South Africa seventeen of the of its 47 years. -- Nelson Mandela spent in prison. We visited we -- that tripped the president visited South Africa earlier this year. He had hoped to get a chance to have one last meeting when Mandela Mandela was in no condition for such a meeting. But the president visited. That sell visited Robben Island to win out into the quarries where. We're Nelson Mandela and the other prisoners were what what were forced to do -- labor. It was clearly of very emotional visit for the president. As you -- he brought Michelle he he. Talked about Mandela's influence on his life and in this forward that President Obama than Senator Obama -- To the book by Mandela he said to many of us he was more than just demand. He was a symbol of the struggle for justice equality and dignity in South Africa and around the globe. His sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. And there you see the daughters got to go into that sells well a very emotional experience for the entire vote Obama family. And really I -- I don't think you can overstates. How much of an influence Mandela has has been on on Barack Obama. And John we're learning that we should hear from the president shortly on the passing of Nelson Mandela and quite frankly gives you chills to look at the images of the president the First Lady the daughters there in that cell and in a trip not long ago the South Africa. In the archive room we were given the opportunity to look at some of the letters he'd written to his children his family members to Winnie Mandela will he was in that cell and he would. Often practice the letters inside his notebook write a draft of them before actually sending out the letter because it was. Told to meet if there was a quote of letters he was only allowed so many of them a year so he was very careful that the letters he did send out. We're perfectly written with precisely the message he wanted to send and he often promised his children that if they do let me out of this prison -- will spend my final years. We view and one other story that comes to mind the young jailer the Afrikaner have been hired as a young man to become. A very close from the Mandela would during the seventeen years on -- islands and Winnie Mandela brought one of the -- -- Norris as a newbie. As she was told you can't bring a baby and into these prison walls not even for Nelson Mandela and then the -- secretly took the baby for winning in a holding room. It took the baby to Nelson Mandela was able to see his grandchild and there were tears straight from the leader and I wanted to also show you -- -- Nelson Mandela's trip to America this was sort of later and the when he spoke of Byron and this was a trip to the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago obviously. An hour long talk show in the afternoon he shows up in Chicago to studio and sits down next Oprah and and essentially asks now why am -- here. Take a look at the humble Nelson Mandela. -- I had said that -- one of the most humble would be most humble person I ever met. I will tell you that we mr. Mandela ride today. He said that producer met with him in the room and he said what is the subject up today's show. If have you ever earned that -- on Oprah Winfrey it was Nelson Mandela in closing discuss reporter wanted to bring in Bill Keller senior writer columnist for the New York Times bill. You work so many years in the Johannesburg bureau and your thoughts this afternoon on the -- and on the passing -- -- and they'll. Well I'm and you know everybody. -- acknowledges that he's an icon and symbol and all of -- I think what people tend to overlook. And what. In my mind made him exceptional among the -- towering figures of the twentieth century. Was that he was such an astute politician. I mean when you look back over that the whole trajectory of his life. He was at one time a black nationalist to -- was a non racial list. He opposed armed struggle and then he took up arms struggle and then he dropped armed struggle he was. -- close partner of the South African Communist Party and that it for a year or two was actually a member of the Communist Party. And yet as a president he was close ally of South Africa's capitalists. And other words he was just whatever served his purpose -- has the league he never lost sight of the basic purpose which was ending. South Africa's. Being -- brand of minority rule. And -- you make such a great point about what an astute politician politician Nelson Mandela was and Byron wanted to bring you back in. So many Americans know the story of the victims the -- not long ago in theaters about the south African soccer team and he knew. That he had the support largely -- a white south African team although many have look at that team for so many years and thought it wasn't conclusive enough. -- and the people of South Africa and yet. He supported the team in new in doing so he was sending a message or a question because in South Africa that time blacks -- soccer whites love rug peace in the sense was. That was the white -- sport. But he understood -- uniting his nation he had to. Find common ground he found common ground in sport at home and dictates he kept it all in boot his new cell walls prison. This six by six foot. Space he lived in for eighteen years and it was his daily reminder about he still while he was in -- he still controlled his own -- he believed. Incredibly disciplined man it was said he understood politics I think he also understood human nature and this is a man who was born into royalty. Grew up -- war. He was the first black -- opened a law firm in South Africa she was a well educated sophisticated -- so he knew. South Africa white South Africa black South Africa -- South Africa. Wealthy South Africa. What one of his supporters at the time when they were looking for a leader for this mass movement. In walks this six foot two plus -- in this massive main. If that yep he's the one in Mandela said -- when this first meetings with the ANC as a young man he stood in the room of his. -- and said I won't be the first black president of South Africa. So that in the 1950s. And I can tell you and trips to South Africa in recent years and in traveling through those towns of Soweto asking people what it was like to line up. In 1994 for their first election. The when we saw the aerials are just a short time earlier they still had tears in their eyes that they still very vivid than many of them told me that they now feared. But the legacy of Nelson mandella wouldn't be enough that they were still a lot of work done work to be done for the people of South Africa. Oh without question the country has problems it is one of the leading places of -- in the country aids is a problem there. Unemployment I think the unemployment the young between the ages of eighteen and 27 is north of 50% there liberal issues and South Africa. But men Nelson Mandela set the stage for the future there he. Brought out the best of office this kind and -- -- he always make the point that people -- was he still lingers is all I'm selling. But he made the choice he says I decide to make a choice I would not let my blood. Over power -- -- and the good work has to occur and it has to occur on my watch and now the work left to the generations that have followed Nelson Mandela. Passing today at the age of 95. President Jacob Zuma addressing the people of South Africa and the people of the world and talking about. Losing -- nation's great son. We will have much more on the passing of Nelson Mandela on world news with Diane Sawyer the entire team -- of course when we hear from President Obama. But we'll bring that back to you in the meantime I'm David -- ABC news headquarters in New York. -- -- -- The. Okay. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- We'll see okay. Okay. This has a special. From BBC news.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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