ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us now. She's in Lagos, Nigeria, today. But from the time that Mandela fell ill, she was in South Africa and stayed for quite sometime.
And, Ofeibea, first, what happens now? Will there be a state funeral, a national day of mourning? What's likely to happen?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: In his address to the South African nation, President Jacob Zuma did announce that there would be a period of mourning, with a funeral probably expected in Saturday week. So, next Saturday. He said that all flags were to fly at half-staff. And he described the loss of Nelson Mandela as the loss of a father. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Yet, what made Nelson Mandela great, said President Zuma, was precisely what made him human.
SIEGEL: You were in South Africa after Mandela was ill. And we knew, he was 95, the end was near. From your reporting, it did seem as though South Africans felt that a member of their family, a father, was on his deathbed. Was it...
QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, very much. Very much so. When I arrived in March, when he first went to hospital, at the hospital, many people were (unintelligible) to talk about Nelson Mandela dying. But by the time I left in July, August, many South Africans had come to terms that this is a man who has given his life for us - Nelson Mandela and the veterans of the ANC struggle.
If he is ready to go, then we musn't be selfish. We must let Nelson Mandela go. We must remember what he did for us, what he did for our nation, the Rainbow Nation, as Nelson Mandela called South Africa.
SIEGEL: Ofeibea, you cover a continent, and you're in Nigeria today. Did the feeling for Mandela extend far beyond the borders of South Africa?
QUIST-ARCTON: Way beyond the borders of South Africa, all across the continent, a continent that he had traveled to extensively since his release from prison in 1990. And, of course, he did some military training in the north of Africa.
No, Nelson Mandela was not only a hero and a father figure for South Africans, but for many, many Africans, especially those who had independence, but who felt that he symbolized much, much more, as I say, forgiveness, bringing people together, a man who was in stature, tall, dignified, with is gray and white hair, his beautiful smile, his sense of humor. A man who had time for everyone, from a road sweeper to a king.
Nelson Mandela was the same way to everyone with love, with amusement and with humility. And I think that's what many Africans across this continent are going to remember him for as they say rest in peace.
SIEGEL: Ofeibea, thank you so much. That's NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton on today's news of the death at age 95 of Nelson Mandela. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.