tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 5, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
for the one hour special edition of nightly news on nelson mandela. it is 3:30 friday morning in front of the home of nelson mandela. n of freedom who changed the world. >> in the name of the heavenly father of our people -- >> tonight the world reacts to the death of nelson mandela at the age of 95. >> he's now at peace. >> on our broadcast tonight, remembering the man and his legacy. "nightly news" begins now. the death of nelson mandela from nbc news headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with brian williams. good evening. to those who loved him, he was the hope and the light of the world. nelson mandela has died at the age of 95. while this news, this announcement was inevitable, it
has still come as a shock to the world with the realization that a beacon of freedom and moral authority and dignity and forgiveness is now gone. a former prisoner turned nobel laureate. late today local time in south africa after visible worry and activity outside the home, south african president zuma went on live it's and broke the sad news to his country. >> our beloved nelson mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation has departed. >> president zuma's announcement was followed within the hour by president obama from the white house. >> we've lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time on this earth.
he no longer belongs to us. he belongs to the ages. >> part of an emotional appearance late today by president obama in the white house briefing room. nbc news correspondent roh rohit kachroo. all tonight we have seen people gathering to celebrate and sing celebrating the life of nelson mandela. while it's important to note that some will wake up to the sad news in the morning. >> reporter: that's right, brian. it is incredibly early in the morning here. almost 2:00. and many south africans haven't heard the news yet. but a few hundred of those who have came down here to nelson mande mandela's home. immediately they have gathered around us. they are singing songs from the
anti-apartheid struggle. singing in all 12 languages, multi-cultural, multi-racial celebration of the rainbow nation. and one of the fascinating observations here is how young people are. like south africa itself, this crowd is young. the people here in the main have no memory of apartheid. but such is the legacy of nelson mandela, that he means almost as much to the youngsters as to the people who lived through apartheid. four hours ago president zuma broke the news to the nation and broke the hearts of millions of south africans. although this news was entirely predictable. a 95-year-old man with a serious respiratory illness who has been in hospital and receiving high intensive care at home for six months, you know, it was predictable that he would at some point pass away, but nevertheless, it was still
incredibly painful. perhaps the most mournful, the most sorrowful day in the history of modern south africa. the father of the nation, the man who gave black south africans dignity and liberty and gave white south africans a secure and relatively safe future in modern south africa. he's being mourned today. nelson mandela dead at the age of 95. >> rohit, thank you. and nbc special news correspondent charlene hunter galt is a journalist and as a citizen is among those best able to talk about nelson mandela's life and legacy. and charlene, while it's just been hours since we heard the news, rohit is write. we had a long time to prepare. your thoughts. >> in south africa, people rarely use the word death or
dying. the talk about transitioning. i think the spirit you're hearing outside the home is part of that notion that nelson mandela has transitioned to a different place. and i think in -- you know, we almost think of him as a super human person. and i thought over these months since we were there in south africa when he first went to the hospital that over these weeks and months, in his own sort of wisdom, he's been preparing his nation and the world for this. and i think that one of the things that surely will happen in the middle aftermath of his passing will be south africa coming together as he wants them to. those outside not singing tonight but will wake up hearing the news will be sad at a moment. but it will bring the nation together sort of like the soccer matches did when the country hosted the world soccer cup a
few years ago. and i guess the one hope that one would have is that these remembrances of mandela will make a difference in his country today, because he so much wanted his country to be united. >> charlene, we're going to join you in hoping for exactly that as dawn breaks across south africa. with us tonight from washington. let's take a moment here and look back at this life in the public realm at least that, remember, started as a fighter against apartheid. then prisoner of the system and next as president. nelson mandela lived a truly remarkable life. >> to deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity. >> reporter: nelson mandela called his life a long walk to freedom, a struggle to end south africa's racist system of apartheid. as a young lawyer and activist,
he initially advocated peaceful resistance until the 1960s sharpville massacre. >> police firing point blank into the crowd. >> reporter: south african police killed scores of anti-apartheid demonstrators. for nelson mandela, it was a turning point. >> there are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people. >> reporter: mandela's african national congress, the anc, was banned. he became an outlaw, but he refused to back down. arrested in 1962, mandela was charged with sabotage and with attempting to violently overthrow the government. he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. for years, for decades the struggle for justice in south africa continued with the
imprisoned nelson mandela as its symbol. at times he was forced to break rocks in the hot sun for hours at a time. the government offered mandela freedom if he would renounce violence. he refused. >> today marks the 25th year behind bars for nelson mandela. >> reporter: south africa became an international outcast. facing sanctions, boycotts, and growing political pressure. >> nelson mandela should be released to participate in the country's political process. >> reporter: rock concerts for the cause were broadcast around the world. ♪ hey mandela >> reporter: in 1989, south africa's hard lined president resigned replaced by f. f.w. declerk who began to dismantle apartheid. the ban on anc was lifted.
and on february 11th, 1990, nelson mandela walked to freedom. >> nelson mandela, free at last and back among his people. >> i thank you all. >> reporter: 27 years in prison had not weakened mandela's resolve. >> i'm going to go on as long as the government has not responded to us. >> reporter: but he also urged restraint, even forgiveness telling blacks to, quote, throw their guns into the sea and reassuring anxious whites. >> whites are fellow south africans and we want them to feel safe. >> reporter: mandela's courage and sacrifice was recognized around the world. in america he was welcomed as a hero. mandela and declerk were awarded the nobel peace prize in 1993. the following year in the first
mixed race election in south africa's history, nelson mandela was elected president. >> today is a day like no other before it. >> reporter: we were the first to interview him on that first morning as president elect. mandela tempered south africa's joy when he said healing his country would take time. >> it cannot be done overnight. it is going to take a year, two years, even as much as five years. >> reporter: from enemy of the state to head of state, nelson mandela's walk to freedom became journey shared by his entire nation. >> i have never been so excited and hopeful in my life in south africa as i am now. >> reporter: years later, nelson mandela paid a return visit to his former prison cell. this time accompanied by president bill clinton who later presented him with the congressional gold medal.
mandela stepped down as president in 1999, but he lived long enough to see the united states elect its own first black president. >> so help me god. >> reporter: and in 2011, he was paid a visit in south africa by first lady michelle obama who brought along first daughters sasha and malia. admired around the world and revered at home, nelson mandela's south africa reentered the family of nations. he leaves a legacy of freedom and proof that one life can make a difference. >> we are one country. we are one people. >> and we are happy to be joined here in the studio tonight by nelson mandela's biographer. rick stangel is former managering editor of "time" magazine who during his time of chronicling the life of nelson mandela actually lived with him.
he spoke about mandela in his book "mandela's way." in fact, he is god father to your older song. and my first quote to start off this conversation. you and i have known this day is coming for 20 years or more. the last pure hero on the planet. >> brian, e had is, indeed, the last pure hero. but if he were here to talk to us, he would say that he wasn't a hero in the conventional sense. he wasn't a saint. he wasn't a philosopher. he was a pragmatic politician. he had one great goal, bringing freedom to his people. but whatever way took him there, he would use it. that was why he was a pragmatist and politician. >> in that first interview back in '94, i saw pictures of it. i said what's your goal immediately for the people. i was stunned he said regular trash pickup. and that's the local pragmatic politician in him. >> he would always -- i remember it fondly.
when we were out walking and he'd meet a young boy, the question he would ask him is what did you have for breakfast today. he wanted to make sure that there was prosperity for his people as well as freedom and that freedom would bring prosperity. he was a very practical politician. >> talk about your personal time with him. of course, it was years of your life. and you always said he made you walk a little taller. >> well, i had to have nelson mandela in my head, which is a wonderful thing for anybody. unfortunately he isn't quite there as prominently as he once was, but to think about things the way he did with moderation, with caution, with understanding. i mean, that's what made him a great leader is that he listened to people. he didn't -- the greatest civil war we would have seen in the 20th century. >> go back the last hundred years of public life, he doesn't compare to a roosevelt or fdr or woodrow wilson.
but where does he rank among the great public figures and game changers? >> the person i'd liken him to is george washington. he was the father of his country. he was the person who like george washington stepped down willingly. african leaders don't do that. they usually leave horizontally. that set the path for africa that had never been there before. so he's a man of the ages. >> finally as we watch this period of mourning, what should we know about modern south africa, such a young country but they had such a relationship with him often calling him father. often saying about old age it's time for him to rest. >> yes. and what people don't realize, it's a very young country. so the majority of people never really experienced nelson mandela as a leader. but the legacy of bringing people together, the legacy of bridging black and white, the legacy of bringing old and new is something that should live on for them. and i think it's a very hopeful
time for them and should be. and it is the rainbow nation as he called it. >> rick stengel, a joy to have you here tonight as we remember this towering life. thank you. we'll take a break. we'll have much more coming up on the passing of nelson mandela. up next, tom brokaw who covered mandela's long fight for freedom will be with us next with his thoughts. and later, some of the day's other news including a big and dangerous weather system moving across our country as the news marches on.
when you look at the legacy of nelson mandela, you're fortunate so much of it happened on your watch. i was thinking of our trip in '94 to cover his eventual election as president. but mostly american viewers were glued to the live coverage in 1990, the long walk to freedom. >> well, i got a call of mine from the south african government saying i need you on your way. he called back and said get on the airplane. went there, didn't look like they were going to release him. remember, we had not seen him in 27 years. and then, of course, he was released. and we didn't know what he would look like. we had that one black and white grainy photograph. this is me in the back yard with him. and it looked like he'd been on a three day holiday somewhere. and a lot of people who were in prison with him said that they used those years to talk with each other about their philosophy, about their strategy once they did get out. so he was absolutely prepared now to take his place not only
in government but on the world stage. we often talk about leaders have to wait the history of judgment. in his case, he's a great man. and he has changed not only his country, but the perception of race and leadership and the philosophy of pulling together people who have been in conflict with each other for more than a hundred years. >> i know people who use the expression in a flip manner, you'll ask them how they're doing. you say it beats breaking rocks in the hot sun. think about it. for 18 years, part of his 27 years incarceration, he broke rocks in the hot sun. as a practical matter, never regained his vision fully. >> he was called from his cell one day by the warden and they all watched him go to the warden's office and come back and not speak to them, go into his cell, and lie down. and not say anything for the next 12 hours. his son had been killed that day. can you imagine? there was nothing he could do.
there was no communication he could have with them. but he went about the business of staying alive and surviving and staying in touch with his colleagues. and when he came out, all he had to do was raise his hand and he could have started a race war. but he didn't do that. and as rick stengel said, he served one term and said it's time for others to go on. after he left office, he would come to new york often. he was the most gregarious, socialable kind of guy you could imagine. he was here not long after personal -- and he was telling everybody everybody could calm down while all of this was on. >> we've lost a towering figure. tom, thanks for helping us remember nelson mandela. >> of all the things i got to do, being with him the morning after was one i'll never forget. >> absolutely. another break. we're back in a moment with some of the other news of this day.
it planned before the urgent news arrived from south africa. a lot of the news is weather, specifically an ice storm in the middle of the country. the national weather fears could be catastrophic. weather channel meteorologist jim cantore is with us tonight from dallas where they are witnessing a 50-degree drop in temperatures over 24 hours. jim, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. these are helping us in dallas. but that won't be the situation later on and this morning where it will be complete gridlock. this is a far reaching storm where 7/8 of the country will be in the deep freeze. look at this area covered by ice. dallas, little rock, louisville, up through pittsburgh as well. we're talking about a quarter to half inch of ice here. on saturday that precipitation moves into the northeast where even the coastal cities could start at snow and sleet.
and some of these same areas will get it again in the form of freezing rain. so power outages and cold finish the next several days. >> all right. jim cantore in dallas. we will stay on it with you. jim, thanks. fast food workers across this country held protest rallies today in some 100 cities demanding a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15. what many people may not realize is the taxpayers are footing some of the bill for low wages. more than half of fast food workers -- half of them rely on some form of public assistance currently like food stamps. another break. our coverage continues right after this 37
. for some of you, this will conclude our coverage for tonight. for others, some of our stations will be continuing with us for a special second half hour of coverage which will also be live streamed on our website nbcnews.com where tonight you can also find some of the conversation we conducted with nelson mandela the morning after
>> announcer: the the death of nelson the death of nelson mandela. this is nbc nightly news with brian williams. we're back with more of our special coverage of the passing of nelson mandela who died today at the age of 95. as you might imagine, at this hour, reaction to his loss, is pouring in from around the world and the nation of south africa now begins a state of mourning. our south african-based correspondent is with us from outside the mandela family home in johannesburg. as we said in our first half hour, this is a nation many of whom went to bed last night who ll