Nelson Mandela, iconic former South African president and anti-Apartheid leader, passed away Thursday afternoon, but mourners believe it should be a time dedicated to celebrating this great man.
Mandela was a prisoner under the Apartheid for 27 years and served as president of South Africa for five years after which he peacefully transferred the title to his successor, a first in South African history and a symbol of democracy for the nation.
"He's affectionately known in South Africa by his clan name, which is Madiba," said Shane Graham, associate professor of English at Utah State University and specialist of South African literature. "And you say that to anyone in South Africa and their face just lights up into a smile because you know their founding father, in a sense, of their nation, the post-Apartheid nation."
Mandela was considered a symbol of stability and peace for South Africans and it is unclear how the death of Mandela will affect South Africa.
"The country is a very tense place and there are a lot of fears that without the unifying presence of Madiba that things might fall apart," said Graham. "We'll see if Jacob Zuma, the current president, has the charisma to achieve that unifying affect that Mandela had the gift for."
Mandela had been frequently hospitalized the last few years of his life for issues related to a chronic lung infection. He was 95 years old.