Johannesburg - Peace icon Nelson Mandela's wrinkled face beamed out from South African newspaper front pages on Friday, as the Rainbow Nation's media strained to mark the momentousness of his death.
Many headlines wished the 95-year-old, who died late on Thursday, “Hamba kahle Madiba”, or “Go Well Madiba” in his native isiXhosa language, using Mandela's clan name as a form of respect.
Afrikaans-language Die Burger simply said “Hy is weg” (“He is gone”). The Sowetan said “Goodbye Tata” (“Goodbye granddad”).
Most newspapers published their headlines in black, as a sign of mourning.
“The World Weeps”, said the national daily The Star, fastening on to the global upwelling of tribute that greeted his death.
Many papers focused on the outsized role that Mandela played in bringing about democracy for his homeland, and searched for lessons in his life for a South Africa that 20 years after the end of apartheid is struggling to find its way.
He had spent 27 years in jail for his battle against white-supremacist rule, before being elected in the first all-race elections in 1994 and then reconciling with his former oppressors.
“He knew reconciliation was possible and, crucially, possessed the strength of character to accept that compromise was as essential as a firm line in negotiations with the apartheid regime,” wrote Business Day in an editorial.
“Stepping down after just one term sent out a powerful message to SA, and Africa as a whole, that democratic principles are greater than any one man,” the newspaper wrote.
The Cape Argus in an editorial said “it was precisely his altogether mortal attributes, his ordinary humanness, with its flaws and foibles, that enabled him to inspire action more than merely impassive or wondering admiration”.
The broadsheet Cape Times, in a four-page special edition with Mandela's face filling page one, said the 95-year-old had “ended his life as he had lived it, a fighter”, after bouncing back from numerous bouts of illness the past two years.
But though Mandela would be missed, the country had come far enough over the past 20 years to carry on with his legacy, the newspaper added.
“In the last long months, South Africans have slowly come to realise that we can manage without his presence among us.” - Sapa-AFP