It has been one year since the death of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, widely considered a powerful symbol of the country’s break from racial apartheid. Admirers across the country held prayers, speeches and a cricket match on Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the beloved leader’s death at the age of 95. A remembrance service included Mandela’s surviving family members laying wreaths at the feet of a statue of the late South African leader in the city of Pretoria.
"The body gave in but Madiba's spirit never, never changed, it was always the same until the end," his widow Graça Machel said at the ceremony, according to the BBC. "My singular privilege was to be the shoulder he would lean on in the sunset of his life.” Another commemoration took place in the Eastern Cape village of Qunu, Mandela’s birthplace and the site of his burial.
Mandela died Dec. 5, 2013, after years of battling declining health. South African President Jacob Zuma announced the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s death via a televised statement that day. The country held a 10-day period of mourning.
Under South Africa’s system of racial segregation, Mandela became a leading anti-apartheid activist. He was imprisoned in 1962 and again in 1964 for allegedly planning to orchestrate war against the government, among other charges. In total, Mandela spent 27 years in a South African prison.
He became president of South Africa in 1994 and served one term. “[Mandela] served South Africa, and all humanity, in a way that no one individual has ever done or is ever likely to in the foreseeable future,” Patrick Craven, a spokesman for the country’s labor movement, told the New York Times on the one-year anniversary of the leader’s death. “He left it up to us and future generations to continue that struggle.”
Many of Mandela’s admirers considered the implications of his legacy on Friday, including his pursuit of reconciliation from South Africa’s troubled past. "That's just the spirit of who granddad was, that even after a year that he's gone, peace still prevails, people still upholding his legacy and what he stood for, because he stood for peace,” Mandela’s granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela, told the BBC.