Nelson Mandela – a Tribute
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
When some 4,500 people, including foreign dignit–aries, attended the burial of Nelson Mandela on December 15 at Qunu, a small rural village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province where Mandela grew up, they witnessed the burial of an icon who had given so much to humanity with his exemplary life.
Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December, 2013, at the age of 95.
It was a state funeral the like of which South Africa had never seen. The venue was engulfed in a sombre mood as mourners chanted "Lizalise idinga lakho," meaning "Fulfill your promise, Lord." This was also one of Mandela's favourite church hymns.
Listening to the tributes at the funeral were Graca Machel, his widow, and his second wife, Winnie-Madikizela Mandela, who sat on either side of President Jacob Zuma.
African National Congress members, veterans of the fight against apartheid and foreign dignitaries, including several African presidents, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Prince of Wales and Oprah Winfrey were among the guests.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
He was South Africa's first black chief executive and the first person to be elected in South Africa through a fully representative democratic election. His life’s struggle was directed at doing away with the evil of apartheid and he achieved his goal by relentlessly working against racism,
– Nelson Mandela
poverty and inequality and fostering racial reconciliation. He served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997 and also as Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
Mandela served over 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. Following a hard-hitting international campaign that lobbied for his release, Mandela finally came out in 1990 and was invited by F. W. de Klerk, South Africa’s white president, to join him in abolishing apartheid and to go for multiracial elections in 1994.
In these elections, Mandela led his ANC to victory and was asked to become South Africa's first black president.
He called his government the Government of National Unity and invited several other political parties to join the cabinet. He also created the well-known Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.
Mandela’s administration also introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 1993 was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new and democratic South Africa;
In September 1998, Mandela was appointed Secretary-General of the NonAligned Movement, which held its annual conference in Durban. He used the event to criticize the "narrow, chauvinistic interests" of the Israeli government in stalling negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged India and Pakistan to negotiate an end to the Kashmir conflict, for which he was criticized by both Israel and India.
Nelson Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he had set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation. Otherwise, he sought a quiet family life that was divided between Johannesburg and Qunu.
In the death of Nelson Mandela, the world has become all the poorer because we have lost an exceptional leader. Mandela’s lifelong struggle for human rights has no parallel – it was an epic struggle against racism and discrimination. He was deeply dedicated to human dignity and bridged peace and dialogue by paying a heavy personal price for it with his struggle.
Nelson Mandela has left an ineffaceable legacy for the world and has engraved his life’s struggles in the saga of world history for all times to come.