The news hit Twitter early on a Saturday morning in June, South African time: the country’s first democratically elected president had been rushed to hospital in the middle of the night for treatment for a recurring lung infection — a remnant of the health problems brought about during his imprisonment on Robben Island during apartheid. As local and international media crews and well wishers gathered around the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s Johannesburg home and the hospital where he was staying, people around the world took to Twitter to spread the news and offer their messages of support.
The visit was the latest of many the elderly statesman had made to the hospital in recent years: from a gall stone operation in December to stomach ailment in February and scheduled check ups. Throughout his most recent stay, journalists shared live updates from the hospital and the Presidency used its Twitter account to post updates on Mandela’s health, with #Madiba trending in the country on multiple days.
After Mandela was discharged in early September, he continued to be cared for at his home in Johannesburg, and passed away there just over three months later. The news brought floods of tributes and reminiscing from world leaders, South Africans and those touched by Mandela’s life and continuing legacy.