CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Nelson Mandela Dead at 95; Remembering Nelson Mandela

Aired December 5, 2013 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. You're watching ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT. I'm Jake Tapper, in for Erin.

We are, of course, following tonight's breaking news story, the death of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, an anti- apartheid icon, and a famous political prisoner. He was 95 years old.

Mandela's passing was announced late this afternoon by South African President Jacob Zuma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA: Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father, but though we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of the profound and enduring loss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Obama who met Mandela in 2005 said he cannot fully imagine his own life without the example set by Mandela.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to follow the example that he set to make decisions guided not by hate but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice. For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived, a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Obama is expected to travel to South Africa to attend the memorial service for Mandela.

At the United Nations tonight, the Security Council paused for a moment of silence in Mandela's honor. And in South Africa, crowds of mourners have gathered outside Mandela's home to celebrate the life of the former president. Robyn Curnow is in South Africa with the incredible story of Nelson Mandela's life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nelson Mandela's struggle for freedom defined his life. He was born in the remote hills of South Africa's Eastern Cape. He was given the name which means troublemaker. He was only given the name nelson by a school teacher later on.

After moving to Johannesburg and studying law, Mandela's trouble making politics began. And as a boxer he became adept at picking fights and sparring with the apartheid authorities, which had increased its oppression against the black population.

It was then that he made the crucial decision to take up an armed struggle launching African National Congress's armed wing. He was militant and a fire brand. Defiantly burning his pass book, a dreaded document the apartheid authorities used to control the movement of South Africa's black population.

NELSON MANDELA: The Africans require, want the franchise on the basis of one man one vote. They want political independents.

CURNOW: That simple demand and the methods Mandela took to fight for democracy eventually saw him and others tried for treason and sabotage by the apartheid government, acts punishable by death. But they got life imprisonment instead banished to Robben Island, one of the country's most brutal and isolated prisons. Another political prisoner remembers the first time he saw Mandela in the prison yard.

MAC MAHARAJ, FORMER POLITICAL PRISONER: I could see from the way he walked and from his conduct that here was a man already stamping his authority on prison regime.

CURNOW: Mandela was released 27 years later.

MANDELA: I have spoken about freedom in my lifetime. Your struggle, your commitment and your discipline has released me to stand before you today.

CURNOW: And his lack of bitterness toward the apartheid authorities helped him to lead one of the most remarkable political transitions of the 20th century. Mandela, the trained lawyer and lifelong rebel out- maneuvered the apartheid leaders and he steered South Africa's peaceful transition to democracy. He won a Nobel Peace Prize, together with his former enemy, the apartheid leader, F.W. De Clerk.

MANDELA: To devote myself to the one thing of the republic and all its people.

CURNOW: And then he became South Africa's first black president in 1994.

MANDELA: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What marks Mandela's career as president almost more than anything else is that after five years, he stepped down. There have been very few presidents in Africa who have ever given up willingly. MANDELA: Don't call me. I'll call you.

CURNOW: His retirement years were busy with fundraising for charities close to his heart. He celebrated his 90th birthday with much fanfare and told CNN in a rare interview that looking back he would not do anything differently.

MANDELA: I don't regret it because the things that have things that pleased my soul.

CURNOW: Those who loved and respected him look to his legacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we wanted to learn from him, learn that life is not made up of straight victories. It is made up of mistakes, zigzags, stumbling, picking yourself up and dusting off the dirt, treating the bruise and walking again forward.

CURNOW: Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: I want to bring in Robyn Curnow right now. Robyn, you interviewed President Mandela for his 90th birthday. I believe it was the last TV interview he did. What did he think his legacy would be?

CURNOW: He always said not only to me, not only his family, that he wanted other people to define his legacy. I think he understood that it was quite organic and he would not be able to control it. And I think in a way that was a gift. He really insisted that his legacy should live personally within all of us. And I think that was key, but when it comes to Nelson Mandela and this extraordinary journey, this life of his, just think about it.

Beyond the political implications of his life and what an impact he had on this country and democracy, just to put into perspective. He was born in 1918 as the First World War was coming to an end. At the age of 46, he was jailed for 27 years, only coming out of prison at the age of 72. He became the first black president at the age of 76. He got married for the third time at the age of 80.

And he spent the last 15 years making up for lost time with his family and grandchildren, and just being at peace. At 95, he left. He went away today. He went home as some people say. But I think there is a deep sense of gratitude, acknowledgement that this was a man whose whole life really inspired, not just this generation but others.

TAPPER: Really remarkable legacy. I want to bring in our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour and joining me on the phone is the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He was one of the first people to greet Nelson Mandela the day he was released from prison after a more than 27-year confinement.

And also on the phone, Doug Wilder, the first African-American elected governor in the United States since reconstruction. He met with Mandela several times. Reverend Jackson, I want to start with you. That must have been such an incredible moment. You stood outside Martin Luther King Jr. and the country's civil rights and you were in South Africa on the day Mandela walked out of prison. Tell us about that moment.

JESSE JACKSON, PRESIDENT, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION (via telephone): You know, it was a moment difficult to describe. He took us on unbelievable heights of joy that day and the depths of pain. He is a huge larger than life figure. I've gotten into South Africa quite by chance in 1979 and connected with his family and we struggled until in the 1990.

And we had the feeling he would be released this weekend so my son and I met him there. What surprised me was he recognized me and called my name. He had seen the convention speech from the Democratic convention. He came out and stopped. I'm sure the governor going to say that he was unbelievably slumped. He came out not just reading speeches but up for debate.

TAPPER: Christiane, what do you think Mandela's most enduring legacy will be around the world? Is it the concept that I've heard you speak about so eloquently, the concept of forgiveness and reconciliation?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it is the thing that everybody says. That he was the true towering moral figure of our time. Why do people say that he is the leader that they most respect? Everybody you ask, when you ask them who is their favorite leader in the world, they say Nelson Mandela. Because of what he did when he came out of prison. Forget the sacrifice that he made as a freedom fighter on behalf of the majority of the people of South Africa.

But then when he came out of prison after being treated so horned usually, he had the grace, and he saw that he had to understand the story of the other. He created himself as political figure and he met them with a handshake rather than a clenched fist and this is his enduring legacy because it is so rare. And you know, the images that flash in front of your mind about Nelson Mandela, the 1994 election. South Africa's first, is just stupendous.

If you go back and get all those pictures and see those lines of people that were all over the country side not just in the cities. It went for two days and they had to call for helicopters and cargo planes to bring more ballots and it was the most extraordinary thing. I think what his old comrade in arms and as we know, the spokesman for the presidency said, he stamped his authority even on prison.

He earned the respect and quietly demanded the respect and got it of his prison warders. And Max said this is a man who proved that simply by being so dignified forced even the adversary to respect him. And I think that is just so tremendous how he did that. We talk about hill as if he was an angel. He was a man with a core of steel and he was able to be that and also to be so incredibly human and fun. All the pictures you see, he is smiling and dancing. It is a most remarkable combination.

TAPPER: Indeed. Governor Wilder, you met with Nelson Mandela many times. One of the things that I read this evening, that I thought was so fascinating was somebody talking about Mandela, the cunning politician. Obviously revere him for what he did and for his dignity and his accomplishments, but this writer said that he wielded his halo as a weapon. Tell us about the savvy man who was able to accomplish what he did with much more than smiles and grace.

DOUGLAS WILDER, FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR (D): First of all, Nelson Mandela was a smart man, a trained man, an educated man and he always stressed the need for that. You can't know what's right unless you know what's wrong. So you can't be in a position to demand what's right before you can criticize what's wrong. So he is staying on top of that. He also learned the best way to overcome your enemy is to be smarter.

The best way to unite your forces is to be able to give credit where it belongs. He would say he served with me as well as in prison. Steve, he did not to go prison because he was killed, but the sacrifices he made. So Mandela was able to unite the forces of good wherever they were whether it was in the other places, in the urban dwellings of Johannesburg or Cape Town.

He was able to speak to the high and the low, to let them know it was not just for a few but for all. And to the extent that he did so not looking out for anything for himself but sharing with others. He is a moral for us, the likes of which we will have a very difficult time seeing a replacement any time too soon.

TAPPER: Reverend Jackson, a lot of people watching right now are too young to remember the bitter debate in this country in the 1980s about how to deal with South Africa. How to try to stop the oppressive and racist apartheid regime, those debates were very vigorous. I remember you played a big in them.

Looking back on them now, a reporter told me this evening that De Clerk maintains to this day, the sanctions kept apartheid in place longer. That's not my statement, it's self-serving, but tell us about the legacy of that fight here in the U.S. to sanction South Africa.

JACKSON: Twenty years of street action, divestment of plans, organized labor, the plan of the universities. They set in and faced jail in defiance and then for a whole year, he went to jail every day for a year. And finally, finally one day congressman asked for a voice vote in the Congress. The U.S. government declaring sanctions was the beginning of then end. I met with Mrs. Thatcher the day before Mandela was set free and Britain never broke from apartheid South Africa.

But the U.S. played the most significant role of any. I think, I was listening to Brother Doug speak is that he chose a critical point reconciliation over retribution. He had a chance for a very bloody South Africa, but the unfinished business. And I think that reconciliation over retribution. We had a conversation about two years ago. We were talking. He said he had been the military leader. He felt nonviolence would not work there.

He planned to blow up a hospital in desperation. He was captured just before that happened. He is glad he got caught. He would rather have spent 27 years in jail than to have the blood on his hands of innocent people. To me that is quintessentially him. He also made some tough decisions politically about his allies. He reached out to Cuba. He reached out to Libya. He tried to bring a nonaligned mission. He had the global vision and very principled stands on those issues.

TAPPER: And Christiane, President Obama only met Nelson Mandela once, I believe. There did seem to be a real connection between the first black president of the United States and the first black president of South Africa. How do you think Mandela impacted President Obama's life?

AMANPOUR: Well, he said it himself in his tribute today. That this was the first political activism that President Obama as a young man got involved with, the protest against apartheid in South Africa, and yes, in 2005 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., then Senator Obama, did get to meet Mandela. He was very lucky. He was a freshman senator. He never met him as president although Michelle and the girls did.

This must have had the most tremendous impact, the first black president of the United States, the first black president of South Africa. It is really very, very important. And talking about him reaching across to allies, you know, yes, the black people were behind him and they rallied with great pain and sacrifice, but so did so many whites in South Africa.

I remember being on campus during the apartheid days here in the United States and my friend John Kennedy who took up the mantle of Robert Kennedy and his father in the cause of civil rights brought Helen Suesman, very famous anti-apartheid campaign who befriended Mandela when he was in prison.

And she came and delivered an electrifying talk on campus. And you understood that it was because he was able to reach out and get whites on board with him as well that this in the end was possible.

TAPPER: Finally, Governor Wilder, so many of us have memories of Nelson Mandela from television and books and movies. You actually have memories of him from your life. If you would tell us about one experience you had with him, if you would walk us through that that you would be a great gift to me.

WILDER: Well, one of the things he pretty much said, when he, when we first met, and he knew that I had made a commitment on behalf of Virginia that we would no longer trade with South Africa, invest with our pension funds, and we would do nothing to promote them as long as they were practicing apartheid. He thanked me for it and he said you cannot know what it means for that to take place.

He said you cannot know what it means for Virginia to do that and to take a leadership role. And I disagree with what he said. I debated him quite a while. He was president visiting. It did have an effect to the extent that this man never looked for credit for himself. He always believed in sharing. They voted for him and they believed in him. It was well justified. What did he with me was made me feel much smaller than I was. He will always look at me. He would lower his head to make it, almost make it look like we were the same height. I loved him dearly.

TAPPER: How lucky you were to have been a friend to him. Thank you so much, Governor Wilder, Reverend Jackson, Christiane Amanpour. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, how Mandela went from being called a terrorist one day to being embraced by the world the next. Even by his enemies. Also, our Don Lemon is in Harlem tonight, a neighbourhood Mandela visited in 1990. We'll take you there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Nelson Mandela, a free man, taking his first steps into a new South Africa.

MANDELA: We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continued poverty, deprivation, suffering --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANDELA: What is important is no particular individual or organization. It is the people of South Africa. That is what should dominate all of us and I think that everyone of us will agree that the people of South Africa have been victorious. They have won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The death of an icon but also a celebration of his life for those of you just joining us, Nelson Mandela, the first democratic leader of South Africa and the first black president of that country died at the age of 95. Don Lemon is in Harlem tonight. Don, how did Nelson Mandela change this country, do you think?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think when you speak of Nelson Mandela, especially in this country. Yu have to use the word hope. He gave many people hope especially African-Americans and you have to remember when he visited this country back in 1990, for large urban areas, it wasn't a great time. There was a large drug epidemic. The economy was not great.

When he came to this country, he gave a lot of people hope that things could actually be better. That after 27 years, spending 27 years in prison, for him to come out of prison and not be bitter and do something positive, I think gave many people in America and across the world hope. I think that's what you have to do. You have to mention that word when you mention Nelson Mandela.

Jake, if I can just point out, standing here at the iconic Apollo Theatre, I'm sure that you recognized it. When he visited New York and Harlem back in 1990 and the marquis that, welcome home, Mr. And Mrs. Mandela, we love you. We love you. We love you, and that's because Mr. Mandela felt like he had a kinship to New York, friends in New York, but especially Harlem because many South Africans and many Africans for the first time, they come to America, they come and live here in Harlem.

Now the marquis says in memory of Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013, he changed our world. I want to bring in now Billy Mitchell who is the historian here at the Apollo. I was going back over that visit in 1990 when he got off the plane. They said he was tired. They were worried about his health back then. He was 72 years old.

The first thing he did. There were some little girls standing as he got off the plane with the African national Congress flag and he got down and stooped there and he let them drape the flag over him and his wife, Winnie, at the time and he spent a lot of time with him. Even though he was tired he made a big impression and he gathered his strength.

BILLY MITCHELL, HISTORIAN, APOLLO THEATER: There were at least 200,000 people out here. There were some people going through certain personal issues at that time whether it was jobs, family, but he gave them a sense of hope. That if this man could spend 27 years of his life fighting for a cause that he believed in, we can get better at what we need to do.

LEMON: Apartheid had not fallen. He was at a ceremony at city hall. At the end of a very graceful speech, he said apartheid is doomed. And that drew a rousing applause from people here and people watching on the monitors, 750,000 people over the course of his visit in New York City got to see him including a ticker tape parade, a motorcade that came right through here.

MITCHELL: A big reception at Riverside Church. I remember when the motorcade came up, he was in a car and I saw him. I'm on top of the marquis with some staff members and I could see Nelson Mandela pointing as if someone was saying, there's the Apollo Theatre and it made us feel so good that he acknowledged that we were there.

LEMON: It was a different time then. Harlem was a different time in the 1990s. It was going through some things as we say and now Harlem is in its renaissance. When he was here, it was the first George W. Bush was the president and we had the first black mayor of New York City. And now we have the first black president of the United States. What do you think he would think of Harlem and the United States?

MITCHELL: I think he would think we've come a long way which we have, the fact that we have a black president the United States, who he knew, the fact that Harlem is being redeveloped, some for it, some against but progress is sometimes not accepted by everybody. I think Nelson Mandela would love the fact that we are moving on. We've gotten over the hump. There are a lot of us that we're looking for hope. We've found it. Now we're moving on.

LEMON: Jake Tapper who is the anchor of this program said how did he change America? How did he change the world? How did he change America? Was I right with that word hope?

MITCHELL: I think it was hope and by example. You see, you know, a lot of people can talk and they can do -- but he showed by example.

This man stood for anti-apartheid. He stood in jail. He suffered a lot. You understand?

But he still stuck -- but he did not give up.

LEMON: Right.

MITCHELL: And he was not going to give in. So, if we all had that type of person and that type of drive and commitment, things would change for all of us.

LEMON: Yes, thank you very much. I appreciate it. And Jake, it was what? About 25 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King and many in this country, especially people of color, were looking for hopes, because some things have changed. Many had not changed.

And Nelson Mandela came along and offered many people hope -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What a nice sentiment. Thank you, Don Lemon, in Harlem.

Joining us now on the phone is General Colin Powell.

General Powell, your reaction to the news of Mandela's passing?

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET.), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE (via telephone): Well, I heard about it on the plane flying home from the West Coast a few hours ago. And I was deeply saddened. That was to be expected. We've been waiting for this day to come. But finally, it still hit me as if it was nothing to be expected.

He was a remarkable man. I was privileged to know him. I was privileged to spend time with him.

And so many things are being said about Nelson Mandela. My memories will always go back to his inauguration in 1994. I was privileged to be there in front of the Union Hall when he was inaugurated.

I will never forget. As he came up on the stage to become the new president of the new South Africa, he was preceded by the four generals. You see things through the filter of your experience. As general I could not help note, these four white generals came ahead of him as a guard of honor. And it was showing him, that they accepted him as a freely elected president.

And then, he looked down to the jailers who were in the front row. And it reminded everybody that my regime, my new leadership of this country is about reconciliation. It's about democracy, about taking care of the people, it is about improving the economy and not living in the past but looking forward to the future.

He was a remarkable man. TAPPER: General Powell, where do you think, as somebody who met him and followed him so closely from your leadership of this country, where do you think he got the emotional strength to set this example? Obviously, it would be I think psychologically impossible to completely forgive the people who oppressed you for having done that. For having denied you to spend time with your children, cost you a marriage, imprison you for 27 years.

But he did so so nakedly, publicly, having his jailers there at his inauguration. How was he able to do that?

POWELL: I think it came from the depth of his soul and depth of his heart and the depth of his love for his country and the depth of his love for his people. He made it clear from the very start that he was determined to bring an end to apartheid.

He would do it peacefully. He would try to use the laws that if that didn't work, he was prepared to use violence. And he did.

But when the violence was getting out of control and it was obvious then that the white leadership was getting toward reach out to him, he didn't compromise his principles. He insisted on the end of apartheid and a new way of life in South Africa.

And so, he believed. And he sacrificed for those beliefs and he never strayed from his purpose.

We don't see enough leaders like that who have a clear vision, a clear purpose and who have moral courage and physical courage to do whatever is necessary to succeed. And that's what did he. That's an excellent example of the rest of us. That's an inspiration to the entire world.

TAPPER: And tell us if you would just as somebody who has, who had met him so many times, if you have any personal stories to share, to let us in. So many of us know him only from television or his books or his speeches, but you actually had occasion to know him.

POWELL: I knew him. I had dinner with him. I had conversations with him.

What always struck me was his humbleness. I mean, he was a humble, gentle, warm person, even though he was a fighter on the political stage as well as on the military stage. But he was a man of deep conviction about what was right, and he approached everybody he met as a fellow human being, equal to him.

And that's what I remember. And he had a warm smile. We would sit and we would talk. And he would say, Colin, how are you? I would say, Madiba, I'm very well, thank you.

He was so gracious, a gracious man. You can very seldom find that combination of virtues and values and principles all in one person. But it was all there. One man that we all came to hail and love, Madiba. Nelson Mandela.

TAPPER: Tell us about the cunning politician. We think of him as angelic and we assume that's where he is.

POWELL: None of this was ordained. It was his political skill and his understanding of --

TAPPER: Oh, I think we've lost Colin Powell. That's a shame. We'll try to get him back.

Joining us now on the phone, we have Larry King and Fareed Zakaria, both, of course, have met Nelson Mandela.

Fareed, good to see you.

What do you think his most enduring legacy will be?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, there are actually so many. I think that there are probably two or three great moments you have to look at to think about what he'll be remembered for. The first is that when he comes out of prison, he decides that he is going to find a way to do this transition to the new South Africa with the Africana establishment. He negotiates in good faith. He finds a way to include them in everything.

The second piece of it, and he was doing this as you pointed out. He is not an angel. He was a canny politician. He was doing this because he wanted to save the country.

He understood that if you destroy the old order, there will be chaos. Think about Iraq where the new regime comes in. And they debathify, they dismantle, throw the entire army out. The whole regime collapsed.

Mandela understood that. He somehow had an understanding that you had to preserve the old order even though this was an order that had been so vicious, so cruel. Remember, to have that kind of sense of forgiveness.

This is a regime that did not allow him to attend the funeral of his first born son in 1968. His son died in a car accident. And the apartheid regime did not allow him to visit his family, go to the funeral, nothing.

And he looks at that regime and he says, I'm going on preserve this bureaucracy. This army, this police force because that's the only way to preserve South Africa.

He goes for truth and reconciliation rather than even justice. It was truth and reconciliation was a system which said, you can air your grievances but really no one is going to go to jail. No one is going to lose their jobs. The ideas were all in this together in the new South Africa.

And the final piece, Jake, is he left office. In 1999 when he left office after one term, I don't think there were many. I may be wrong, I don't think there were any black African presidents who had ever left office.

I mean, Robert Mugabe has been in office for 35 years, I think.

So, he was sending a signal. You know, he was being South Africa's George Washington. He was demonstrating that democracy was not as it so often is in Africa, about the cult of personality or about a dynasty.

It was about something much larger than him. It is a strange thing, because in every -- in each one of these cases, he was demonstrating that all these things, the country, the institutions, democracy, were much larger than him. But by making the sacrifices, he became in a strange sense, larger than all of them.

TAPPER: Larry King, you interviewed Mandela back in May of 2000. I want to play a clip of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN ANTI-APARTHEID ICON: I was a terrorist yesterday but then I came out and many people embraced me including my enemies. And that is what I normally tell other people who say, those who are struggling for liberation in their conduct are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday. But today, I am admired by those who said I was one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In fact, I think Nelson Mandela didn't get off the terrorist watch list in this country in the U.S. until 2008 because of an oversight.

Larry, Mandela inspired countless individuals. As he mentioned in that clip, he was even embraced by enemies. What impressed you the most about him?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING NOW" (via telephone): Jake, I've interviewed thousands of people over the years. I put him way up there.

I think he might have been the greatest figure of the 20th century. With all he endured, with all he overcame, he was revolutionary. He called himself a He became a great president. He invited his jailers to come to his inaugural, which I think was an incredible act of forgiveness.

And I had an extraordinary day with him. I was in South Africa after I interviewed him. I was in South Africa on a speaking tour and I was invited to his home and he came out of his house. He was limping. He had a bad leg and he wore suspenders in my honor which thrilled me to death.

I spend a wonderful afternoon and had lunch. The next morning, I had breakfast with the clerk, the man who released him from prison. The clerk told me an extraordinary thing. He called Mandela on the phone and said you're going to be released tomorrow. And we would like to have you fly up to Johannesburg from Cape Town and we'd like to have you address parliament. And Mandela refused. He said he would like to leave the prison and walk among the people, which is what he did. And when you see that prison, have you been there, Jake? Where he was held?

TAPPER: No, I have not.

KING: Well, he looked out on one of the most beautiful vistas in the world for all those years, when you look through his prison bar, at the mainland of Cape Town which is one of the great sights in the world, to face that every day. A land that looks so peaceful and tranquil and beautiful. San Francisco is the closest reminder of it, and then to live through that and come out.

There is no way to describe him other than extraordinary, a beautiful human being and as it was pointed out by the previous guest and by Fareed, a brilliant politician, a brilliant politician.

TAPPER: Fareed, we heard President Obama is expected to travel to South Africa for the memorial. What do you expect for Nelson Mandela's funeral?

ZAKARIA: I think it will be on par with Winston Churchill's funeral. Maybe not quite John Kennedy because he was a sitting president, but there will probably be upward of 50, maybe 75 heads of government.

I think it will -- it's the last of these moments. You know, if you think about it, there isn't anybody in the world who has this kind of global resonance. For one thing, the fight against apartheid was part of that great global cause. It was -- you know, part of that great global political narrative that we've lost now.

Now, you know, what's going on in China is happening in China. What's happening in Africa is happening in Africa. There aren't these causes like international communism that tie the whole world together.

Apartheid was like that. The anti-apartheid movement was like that and Mandela was like that. Remember, just before he was released, programs one of the contributing causes, there was a huge 70th birthday party for Nelson Mandela. It was held, I think, in London. You know, every rock star in the world, politicians -- it was this great global event.

So, Mandela represents the last of the great global causes. So, I wouldn't be surprised if we see -- we see that -- you know, what you also see, Jake, is a very odd collection of people, because what Mandela was able to do and this was, you were talking about his political brilliance. He brought together all kinds of, it was a strange motley collection.

When he became president of South Africa, everyone wondered, is he going to be pro Western? Is he going to -- because the ANC, the African National Congress, his organization, had been supported by revolutionaries, by Gadhafi, by Arafat, by Castro, but he steers his country in the direction of pro-Western, pro markets, pro democracy. But he never let's go of the personal loyalty to those people. So, I wouldn't be surprised if at the funeral you see something very similar. There will be some people who we might regard as coming out of the rogue states of the world. But then, there will be Barack Obama and the entire Western world will be there to pay homage.

KING: You know, Jake, if I can just --

TAPPER: Go ahead.

KING: It was also about him, a sweetness, a gentleness he changed the room. There were some figures, when Nelson Mandela walked into the room, he changed the room. Can we agree, Fareed? There was a gentle quality about him.

ZAKARIA: Absolutely. What strikes me, Larry, tell me, when you watch him on TV giving a speech, he was ramrod straight. He had this very staccato almost fierce way of talking. When you talk to him privately, he's a very soft, gentleman.

KING: He was. Gentle is a great word to describe him. When you think of all he put up with, you think, I can't believe the kind of life he led and was given that long life to live to 95. What a blessing that was.

TAPPER: Indeed. Larry King and Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much.

KING: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Next, we continue to remember Nelson Mandela.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And now, some more on our breaking news story, Nelson Mandela dead at the age of 95.

I want to bring in "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has written about Nelson Mandela. Filmmaker Rochelle Oliver, who spoke with Mandela's daughter and granddaughter back in October. And CNN contributor, Donna Brazile.

Thanks one and all for being here.

Nick, you've called him a giant in history and a rare leader. Tell us what Mandela was like as a person.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he was actually kind of mischievous. He tend -- he was very self-deprecating. And he had a terrific sense of humor, that I think made people around who he regarded him as a kind of God figure, made him at ease a little bit.

But what really struck is here is a guy whose not just a political giant but really a moral giant, and it wasn't just his opposition to a apartheid. It was also his leadership on things like reconciliation. It was also things like leadership on AIDS and HIV, on LGBT rights, which was very unusual for South Africa.

And --

TAPPER: Nick, I just want to interrupt you for one second just to show our viewers, that's the White House flag at half staff being lowered, having been lowered earlier this evening.

Please proceed.

KRISTOF: It under scores to a degree to which he was not just a leader of South Africa but really a leader for all the world, and, you know, I think he embodied a certain amount of self-sacrifice that we -- I think there is a lot of frustration globally with political figures who seem to be in it for themselves, and here is a man who gave up a promising legal career, who gave up 27 years, who refused to be released early, insisted on unconditional release who separated from his wife because of -- in part because of her political behavior, and limited himself to one term.

I mean, nobody more than he embodied that kind of self-sacrifice.

TAPPER: Rochelle, Mandela's daughter said that he was an extravert to the world, but when it came to his own family, awkward. Why do you think that was?

ROCHELLE OLIVER, FILMMAKER: You know, when I had a chance to speak with the daughter and granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, I found it interesting one of the comments the daughter said is so many people believe that Nelson Mandela fell from the sky, and it stopped me in my tracks because I'm like, didn't he? Didn't he, you know, fall from the sky?

He seems such a larger than life person. And, you know, you saw that sort of conflict, if you could call it that, between the way the world saw him and the way his family saw him. And I think what they were trying to do the in final years of his life was to really humanize him and make him an everyday average guy, which is really hard, a hard pill to swallow for some of us.

TAPPER: Donna, Mandela is also the subject of this new film, "Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom". The actor playing him, Idris Elba, has said it was important we had both sides, the good and the bad. In previous movies, I have to say, he's been portrayed as fairly perfect.

How do you think as we spend the next few days remembering him, how important is it for people to understand as his daughter or granddaughter said that he didn't fall from the sky?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think Mandela said it himself on several occasions that he was not a saint. That he was like any other person. He had -- he made mistakes. He had failures.

But he was a man of grace, a man of courage, a man who was willing to forgive his enemies and to bring his enemies to the table. I think this new movie really illustrate not just his journey from humble beginnings in a small village in South Africa, to rise to become this international icon. When I think of Mandela, I think of Ghandi, I think of Martin Luther King, men who transform not just their nations, but the world itself.

TAPPER: It's an interesting lesson, Nick Kristof, because he tried to make sure so much that how he behaved in public was absorbed by the masses, that he was watched, and people were following him. And part of that was his humility and part of that was, as you noted, on his belief in reconciliation, his belief in making sure that South Africa did not fall apart after apartheid fell.

KRISTOF: Yes, I mean, he was a master of symbolism. I don't know that he was a master of actual governance. I mean, you know, he only had one term, but on issues like crime and education and poverty, South Africa did find that not as well as he might have hoped.

But where he was truly transcendent was in these overpowering issues of racial reconciliation, of bringing people together, of preaching patients, of working toward shared economy, and also providing leadership on -- later on, on conflicts all around Africa and the world, for example.

TAPPER: Donna, what does Mandela mean to you, personally?

BRAZILE: Well, he was inspiration. At a time many of us were growing up and trying to do things in this country to basically bring about freedom, he was a symbol of freedom. He fought to in apartheid, that movement really came out of the civil rights struggle where labor leaders and civil rights leader march in front of South African embassy and when Mandela came to the United States to say thank you, it was just a joyful occasion.

But he will be remembered as a man who was not afraid to confront his enemies and make his enemies his friends.

TAPPER: And, Rochelle, same question for you, what did he mean to you? What made you pursue the project of the film that you made with his granddaughter and daughter?

OLIVER: When I was interviewing just to make sure we have it correct, I was interviewing Nelson Mandela's daughters about wine, the house of wine they were touring around the U.S., and I think what Nelson Mandela definitely means to me, he was an everyday guy, and he was really supported by his family.

And, you know, if he can do that, right, then I think so many of us can live up to those same values of just integrity and character and walking in your truth.

TAPPER: Important lessons.

Thank you so much. Nick, Rochelle, Donna, we appreciate it.

Next, remembrances from around the world, of course, pouring in for Nelson Mandela. We'll share some of them with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Powerful reaction tonight to the passing of Nelson Mandela, with social media messages continuing to pour in from around the world, politicians, celebrities, and other public figures.

Former President Bill Clinton wrote in a statement, quote, "He proved that there is freedom in forgiving and that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life's real victories must be shared."

Morgan Freeman, who, of course, played Mandela, in the 2009 film "Invictus", wrote an op-ed for the "Time" magazine's Web site, quote, "He dedicated his life to a singular cause, a quest to free the black population of his homeland. In accomplishing that, he freed South Africa's white population and freed an entire nation. And in freeing a nation, he changed the entire world."

That's it for me.

"AC360" starts now.