by Syarif Hidayat
People around the world have been reacting to the news that South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela “a hero of peace and a symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation,” died at the age of 95.
Nelson Mandela’s death has brought with it fulsome tributes from all ends of the political spectrum. He has been revered as a saint, and a symbol of freedom.
Mandela (1918-2013) is known as “Madiba” – This is the name of the clan of which Mr Mandela is a member. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone’s clan name.
As PEACE-loving people around the world mourn Nelson Mandela’s passing, we cannot help but draw comparisons between South Africa’s anti-apartheid leader and first black president and America’s well-known black freedom fighter, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Both Mandela — who died Thursday at 95 — and King believed passionately in civil rights for all. Both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to rid their respective nations of the dark cloak of bigotry and discrimination.
King was frequently jailed for his role in passive, peaceful demonstrations against the racist segregation of blacks in a white-majority nation. Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner of Nationalist South Africa, a victim of apartheid, the racist system of white rule in a black-majority nation.
It’s hard to say who fought the bigger battle, but King had a much more formidable weapon: He used the Constitution as a club to strike down regional segregation laws and customs, particularly in the South.
Mandela campaigned against the nationally sanctioned system of apartheid that had begun during Dutch and British colonial rule. It became official policy following the National Party’s rise to power in 1948.
Ultimately, both men triumphed. King was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in 1968, but his legacy endured and his work continued. A federal holiday in his name was established in 1986; a memorial statue on the National Mall was dedicated in 2011.
Mandela, released from prison in 1990, lived to see apartheid crumble and fall. In December 1993, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the country’s last white president; four months later, he was elected president of the country that had jailed him for so long.
During his five-year term as South Africa’s leader, he presided over the country’s transition to a multicultural democracy, with national reconciliation his primary objective.
After his retirement, he assumed near-mythical status. South Africa erected statues of him and put his face on a bank note; he was glorified in books and films, and became a lightning rod for celebrities and world leaders.
While the legal end of segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa by no means solved the problems of blacks in their respective countries, it at least brought those problems out into the light. It was a beginning, rather than an end, to a journey toward true freedom and equality that continues to this day.
In announcing Mandela’s death, South African President Jacob Zuma said at a news conference, “We’ve lost our greatest son.” The world, in turn, has lost one of the great champions of racial equality, a symbol of peace, grace and reconciliation who will go down in history as one of the modern era’s greatest and most beloved heroes.
Zuma announced Nelson Mandela’s death, saying South Africa had lost “its greatest son” and calling on South Africans to conduct themselves with the “dignity and respect” that Mr Mandela personified. “Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss,” he said.
Indonesian and World Leaders Reaction
On his official website, the President spoke of Mandela’s view that there was no future without forgiveness. “Mandela wanted the South African people to unite without holding grudges,” Yudhoyono said. “In the name of the Indonesian nation, I express deep condolences on the death of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president,” said the Indonesia President.
US President Barack Obama spoke shortly afterwards. “We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth,” he said.
“Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Mandela, having gone through the most difficult ordeals, was committed to the end of his days to the ideals of humanism and justice.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping said the Chinese people would always remember Mr Mandela’s “outstanding contributions to the China-South Africa relationship and the course of progress of mankind”.
French President Francois Hollande said Mr Mandela’s message would “continue to inspire fighters for freedom, and to give confidence to peoples in the defence of just causes and universal rights”.
Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Mandela’s “political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism” would continue to inspire.
President Assad of Syria, who is currently fighting a revolt against his rule, said Nelson Mandela’s life was an inspiration to freedom fighters and a lesson to tyrants.
Ghana’s President John Mahama told the BBC Mr Mandela was the greatest African who ever lived.
Senegalese President Macky Sall said “Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly the most influential man of the century”, a “role model for Africans and also for humanity”. He said Mr Mandela gave Africans “pride in being black – a dignity in being a black man”.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta praised him for living “an extraordinary life in a very ordinary way. His legacy encrypts the story of humanity now and tomorrow.”
Mr Mandela was an “inspiration to the oppressed peoples all over the world” and had made “unparalleled personal sacrifices”, said Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
Liberia’s President and Nobel peace prize laureate Ellen Johnston Sirleaf told the BBC that Mr Mandela was a constant inspiration and would never be forgotten: “Nelson Mandela lives on as his life will continue to be the guiding light for those who excel, for those who have suffered for freedom and for peace.”
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff said Mr Mandela would “guide all those who fight for social justice and for peace in the world”.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro compared the death of Mr Mandela to the passing of the late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez: “Nine months after the departure of our commander, today another giant of the people leaves this world. Madiba you will live forever!”
Cuban leader Raul Castro said he was grateful for Mr Mandela’s friendship and and steadfast support of the Cuban people.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come.”
For UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mr Mandela “was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration”.
Queen Elizabeth II, who met Mr Mandela on several occasions, said in a statement she was deeply saddened to learn of his death and remembered their meetings with great warmth.
“A great light has gone out in the world,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr Mandela was “a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero”, he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Nelson Mandela as “the most honourable figures of our time”. He added: “He was the father of his people, a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence. He set a personal example for his people in the long years he spent in prison.”
For the Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmud Abbas, Mr Mandela was “a symbol of the liberation from colonialism and occupation”. Mr Abbas added that “the Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free”.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called him “an icon of our time, for man’s dignity, equality and freedom”.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement that Mr Mandela “had a firm belief in the freedom and equality of all humans, not only in his country South Africa, but also across the world”, adding his life had been a “rough and rugged road full of hardship”.
PRESIDENT OBAMA TELLS OF HIS PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE LATE SOUTH AFRICAN LEADER, SAYING THE FIRST WAY HE EVER TOOK PART IN POLITICS WAS DURING AN ANTI-APARTHEID RALLY IN HONOR OF ‘MADIBA’
President Barack Obama paid an emotional tribute to his personal hero Nelson Mandela tonight, saying he could not imagine life without the former South African President.
Speaking shortly after the death of the civil rights leader was announced, Mr Obama said now is the time for people to pause and honor the fact ‘that Nelson Mandela lived.
He said: ‘Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my life without the example that Nelson Mandela set.’ ‘He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages,’ Mr Obama said from the White House briefing room.
At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.
Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.
And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable. As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. I studied his words and his writings.
The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.
To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us. His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most. And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.
To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real. A free South Africa at peace with itself — that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.
We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward 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.
Mandela – an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause
Here is the historic speech by Nelson Mandela supporting Palestinian cause
Address by President Nelson Mandela at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
4 December 1997, Pretoria
Mr. Suleyman al-Najab,
Special Emissary of President Yasser Arafat;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
We have assembled once again as South Africans, our Palestinian guests and as humanists to express our solidarity with the people of Palestine.
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the organisers of the event, particularly the United Nations Information Centre and the UNISA Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies for this magnificent act of compassion, to keep the flames of solidarity, justice and freedom burning.
The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own. We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others faces.
Yet we would be less than human if we did so.
It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.
Even during the days of negotiations, our own experience taught us that the pursuit of human fraternity and equality – irrespective of race or religion – should stand at the centre of our peaceful endeavours. The choice is not between freedom and justice, on the one hand, and their opposite, on the other. Peace and prosperity; tranquility and security are only possible if these are enjoyed by all without discrimination.
It is in this spirit that I have come to join you today to add our own voice to the universal call for Palestinian self-determination and statehood.
We would be beneath our own reason for existence as government and as a nation, if the resolution of the problems of the Middle East did not feature prominently on our agenda.
When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system.
But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians; without the resolution of conflicts in East Timor, the Sudan and other parts of the world.
We are proud as a government, and as the overwhelming majority of South Africans to be part of an international consensus taking root that the time has come to resolve the problems of Palestine.
Indeed, all of us marvelled at the progress made a few years ago, with the adoption of the Oslo Agreements. Leaders of vision, who saw problems not merely from the point of view of their own narrow constituency, had at least found a workable approach towards friendship and peaceful co-existence in the Middle East.
I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to these Palestinian and Israeli leaders. In particular, we pay homage to the memory of Yitshak Rabin who paid the supreme sacrifice in pursuit of peace.
We are proud as humanists, that the international consensus on the need for the implementation of the Oslo Agreements is finding expression in the efforts of the multitude of Israeli and Palestinian citizens of goodwill who are marching together, campaigning together, for an end to prevarication. These soldiers of peace are indeed sending a message to us all, that the day is not far off, when Palestinian and Jewish children will enjoy the gay abandon of children of God in a peaceful and prosperous region.
These soldiers of peace recognise that the world we live in is rising above the trappings of religious and racial hatred and conflict. They recognise that the spurning of agreements reached in good faith and the forceful occupation of land can only fan the flames of conflict. They know from their own experience that, it is in a situation such as this, that extremists on all sides thrive, fed by the blood lust of centuries gone by.
These Palestinian and Israeli campaigners for peace know that security for any nation is not abstract; neither is it exclusive. It depends on the security of others; it depends on mutual respect and trust. Indeed, these soldiers of peace know that their destiny is bound together, and that none can be at peace while others wallow in poverty and insecurity.
Thus, in extending our hands across the miles to the people of Palestine, we do so in the full knowledge that we are part of a humanity that is at one, that the time has come for progress in the implementation of agreements. The majority of the world community; the majority of the people of the Middle East; the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are suing for peace.
But we know, Mr. Chairman, that all of us need to do much much more to ensure that this noble ideal is realised.
As early as February 1995, our government formalised its relations with the State of Palestine when we established full diplomatic relations. We are proud of the modest technical assistance that our government is offering Palestine in such areas as Disaster Management, women`s empowerment and assistance to handicapped children. But the various discussions with our counterparts in Palestine are an indication that we can do more.
We need to do more as government, as the ANC and other parties, as South Africans of all religious and political persuasions to spur on the peace process. All of us should be as vocal in condemning violence and the violation of human rights in this part of the world as we do with regard to other areas. We need to send a strong message to all concerned that an attempt by anyone to isolate partners in negotiations from their own mass base; and attempt to co-opt tes is bound to hurt the peace process as a whole.
We must make our voices heard calling for stronger action by world bodies as well as those states that have the power, to act with the same enthusiasm in dealing with this deadlock as they do on other problems in the Middle East.
Yes, all of us need to do more in supporting the struggle of the people of Palestine for self-determination; in supporting the quest for peace, security and friendship in this region.
But at least we can draw comfort from the fact that, our meeting today is yet another small expression of our empathy.
We hope that, by this humble act, we are strengthening the voice of peace and friendship in Israel and Palestine; so that, as we enter the new millennium, we shall all have taken a giant stride towards a world in which our humanity will be the hallmark of our relations across colour, religious and other divides.
I thank you.
Author: Nelson Mandela
A “symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid tribute on Friday (6/12) to Nelson Mandela’s commitment to his people’s cause as he mourned the South African liberation icon.
“This is a great loss for all the peoples of the world, and for Palestine,” Abbas said, hailing a “symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation,” IOL.co.za quoted by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Mandela, who first visited Palestine in 1999, was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace as his famous statement emerged worldwide saying: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Abbas said, “The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free.”
He described Mandela as the “most courageous and important of those who supported us”. Many Palestinians have taken inspiration from Mandela’s successful struggle against apartheid in their decades-long struggle to end Israeli occupation and settlement of the West Bank. “The name Mandela will stay forever with Palestine and with all Palestinians,” Abbas said.
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. May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace. (HSH)