Like so many others, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela. He was a man of great compassion and humour – and a statesman of great courage and integrity. The image that most of us will probably hold of Mandela is of a jolly and benevolent grandfather.
But he was also a dissident, an agitator, a rebel. He organised, he protested, he resisted. He refused to accept the indignity of apartheid and dedicated his entire life to consigning it to the dustbin of history.
He refused to believe that the status quo could not be changed.
We may know him by the name Nelson, but Mandela’s birth name was actually Rolihlahla.
Fittingly, it means “pulling the branch of a tree” in Xhosa or, colloquially, “troublemaker”. Today, in our age of apathy and inertia, of mass state surveillance and pervasive social injustice, we need all the Rolihlahlas we can get.
As lawyer and Scottish Nationalist Ian Hamilton has said: “There are times when a country needs troublemakers. This is one.”
Glasgow, Liverpool and Dundee made Nelson Mandela a freeman of their cities when he was on Robben Island and in 1993 he flew into Glasgow to thank all three councils.
I was present as Moderator of Dundee Presbytery and though underwhelmed by any other politician I had met, I was bewitched by his charm, modesty, humour and candour. Of course one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter and he was jailed for political violence, with his name remaining on the US watch-list until removed by George Bush.
He was transformed rather than destroyed by prison and fortunate to have in FW de Klerk and Margaret Thatcher two powerful political leaders willing to swim against the tide.
His release and presidency, as well that extraordinary period of reconciliation, lifted the whole tone of African politics and he rightly shared the Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk.
Unlike the other great revolutionary politician with whom he is often compared – Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – he was not a good administrator and wisely served only one term.
His legacy is to have set an example of forgiveness and statesmanship which has been an inspiration to mankind and he remains one of the planet’s most admired inhabitants.
(Rev Dr) John Cameron
Nelson Mandela, when will we see your like again? If only all politicians could act with such integrity.
He tackled issues with honesty and achieved reconciliation and forgiveness in situations which appeared to be hopeless.
Considering the injustice meted out on him he is a colossus of our age and a perfect role model for all aspiring politicians.
Nelson Mandela has died. Rather than wallow in his death we should look around for current forms of oppression and prejudice which still persist in the world in 2013 and unite to change them for the better.
We could start with Palestine.
Nelson Mandela RIP.
The tributes now being paid to Nelson Mandela are deserving of an outstanding human being.
I find myself wondering what the state of South Africa would be today if he had never existed.
Swallowed up by big business, I suppose.