My Tribute to Nelson Mandela, a Man of Peace and an Inspiration
The news of his death came as a surprise but it was not a shock, as we were all aware of the state of health of “Madiba” given the world media’s 24-hour stakeout at the foot of his hospital bed, almost, in the months prior to his death.
So, it’s funny how, after causing a gaggle of reporters to converge on his Pretoria hospital, a terminally ill Mandela still managed to wrong-foot them all, and somewhat peacefully slip away and avoid a similar distasteful media feeding frenzy.
So his knack of outwitting opponents, detractors and others alike continued to the end and I recall a certain Iron Lady forever being tarnished by her unwillingness to impose sanctions on an apartheid regime and her labeling of Mandela a terrorist.
In 1996, as President of South Africa, that same “terrorist” paid a triumphant state visit to Britain but declined to meet the former Prime Minister. Then, in 2006, as Tory leader and aspiring Prime Minister, David Cameron wrote an article for the Observer newspaper where he recanted Thatcher’s views on Mandela and the ANC.
But one of my enduring memories will be the day that Mandela was released from the notorious Robben Island prison. As a young boy, living on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, I watched, tearfully, as Mandela made his first few steps of freedom after spending 27 years behind bars.
As someone acutely aware of the struggles in South Africa, Mandela’s struggle was my struggle and his struggle was for freedom, equality and dignity for all South Africans; thus, merely the rights enshrined in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But what endeared me even more to Mandela was his unequivocal willingness to heal the scars of apartheid, to reconcile a nation, and to look forward to what South Africa could be – a united, rainbow nation under the sun.
This profound legacy was claimed by Mandela whilst a similar one afforded to Robert Mugabe, a hero of the struggles for freedom in former Rhodesia (nka Zimbabwe), was lost.
I never met Mr Mandela, but I’m proud to say that my sister did.
In 1998, as President of South Africa, Mandela paid a visit to St Lucia to attend the 25th anniversary of the founding of Caricom, the Caribbean trade block.
As part of the four-person organising committee for the closing ceremony, my sister was introduced to the great man and she’s very proud to have a snap of the occasion.