“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” said South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma late on Thursday night. The President made the tearful announcement that former President Nelson Mandela has passed away at his house in Houghton on 5 December.
The news announcement, which was broadcast on all of South Africa’s SABC channels, evoked a huge response on social networks, with people from all walks of life sharing memories, sending condolences to the family, and relaying tales of their experiences with him.
“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves,” Zuma continued.
Users took to Twitter as soon as the news broke, and while Mandela has been gravely ill over the last couple of months, it still came as a shock to many.
Virgin boss Richard Branson sent a tweet regarding the news, writing “Thanks for your inspiration, friendship & the joy you brought into our lives #RIPNelsonMandela”. The company has set up a page at http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/on-nelson-mandela to honour Mandela.
“Today we lost not only a great man; we also lost one of the world’s greatest leaders. Everyone will have been impacted by Nelson Mandela in their own way – these are my personal reflections on the time I was fortunate enough to spend with him,” reads the opening statement.
Radio show host Gareth Cliff broke the news to his followers, before rushing off to the 5Fm studios for live coverage. “Former President Mandela is dead. Love and condolences to our great nation, and his family. Nkosi sikelele’ iAfrika”.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates tweeted “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.”
MTN Nigeria tweeted “We lost a great leader. RIP Madiba”.
South Africa’s Cell C stated: “It is with a heavy heart that we must say farewell to our beloved former president, hero & father of the nation, Nelson Mandela.#RIPMandela.”
MTN Rwanda posted the message: “As MTN celebrates Mandela’s life and legacy, let us all remember his words: “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement”
“Without #Mandela this beautiful being wouldn’t have been able to live in this country. RIP Tata. Thank you,” wrote technology journalist Pippa Tshabalala, posting it together with a picture of her son.
Twitter’s social video sharing site Vine posted a short video to honour his live. “A tribute to Nelson Mandela https://vine.co/v/hxTVulzmY2t by @nowthisnews #RIPNelsonMandela,” they posted.
IDC analyst Will Hahn took the opportunity on Facebook to relay his feelings. “I think of the many friends I’ve been privileged to meet in South Africa, and what they must be thinking now that Nelson Mandela has passed from this earth.”
Mere hours after the news broke, #Mandela, #RiPMandela and #Mandela was trending on Twitter throughout the entire world, as confirmed by social media tracker company Trendsmap.
“RIP Nelson Mandela, whose courage and character inspired South Africa and the world. My recent remarks on his legacy” – US Senator John McCain.
“I will never forget my friend Madiba.” – Former US President Bill Clinton
“Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of discipline, courage, love and forgiveness. There is no future without forgiveness-@NelsonMandela” – boxer Mike Tyson
“Nelson Mandela, rest in peace. What an unbelievable legacy…” – actor Neil Patrick Harris
“PM: A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I’ve asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half-mast.” – UK Prime Minister David Cameron
“So sad to hear about Nelson Mandela. Rest in peace.” – Simon Cowell
“President Obama – please attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral on behalf of all of us.” – Film director Michael Moore
“Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country.” – US actor Samuel L. Jackson
“Oh no. Just heard. Madiba dead. One of the greatest ever to share the planet with us. #mandela” – UK actor Stephen Fry
“#NelsonMandela you made your people proud!! We’ll always love you for it!” – US singer Rihanna
“Sad to hear about the passing of Nelson Mandela – he was the greatest figure of the 20th century – a fascinating man” – US talk show host Larry King
“Honestly, just imagine how different the world would’ve been without Nelson Mandela. He’s changed our lives so much” – US singer Beyonce.
“My heartfelt condolences to #Madiba’s family and to the South African nation. We mourn the loss of an exceptional human being” – Director-General of the International Labour Organization
“There will never be words to say what I’m feeling right now. I am saddened to the depths of my soul. Truly.” – South African-born actress Charlize Theron
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor