Editorial

Mr Nelson Mandela — a true monument to human greatness

Friday, December 06, 2013    

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We join the world in mourning the passing of Mr Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest human beings ever to have graced the face of this earth.

The flood of tributes from world leaders to the former political prisoner turned president, who left us yesterday, speaks to the respect and admiration that he earned by his resolve to stand up against injustice and racial prejudice.

Throughout his 95 years, President Mandela repeatedly gave us reason to reflect on our purpose here, as he made his contribution to the development of his beloved South Africa and the state of the world in general.

All peoples everywhere who struggle to achieve the noble ideal of freedom and dignity cannot forget Mr Mandela's statement made during his unjustified trial for treason in April 1964 when the ignoble Apartheid Government sought to put him to death:

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination," Mr Mandela said. "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."

That statement, we believe, more than any other defined Mr Mandela as a strong advocate of freedom, human rights, equality, and justice. This will forever remain a profound signpost and rallying cry for future men and women against tyranny and oppression.

If anyone doubted his resolve at that time, they would have been divested of that scepticism when, during his 27 years in prison, he repeatedly turned down conditional offers of freedom.

We recall that the world rejoiced upon his release in February 1990. For in Mr Mandela we saw an iconic figure who represented the resolve of enslaved people to win their freedom.

Jamaica, of course, was blessed to have hosted Mr Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, in 1991, just over a year after his release from prison. Indeed, we regard it as a great honour and a tribute to Jamaica's principled stand as one of the first countries to sever trade and sporting ties with the racist South African regime -- a position that was maintained by successive governments.

There are, we know, people who are disappointed that Mr Mandela, during his presidency, did not exact vengeance on white South Africans for the decades of wrong that they committed against the majority black population of that country.

But, had he done that, Mr Mandela would have trampled on the very principles he held dear and which framed his belief in humanity.

It was that quality that no doubt influenced the Nobel Committee to award him, along with then South African President F W de Klerk, the Peace Prize in 1993.

Upon receiving the prize, Mr Mandela, who by then had attained almost mythical status, impressed the world with his humility when he said: "The award was a tribute to all South Africans, and especially to those who fought in the struggle; I would accept it on their behalf."

As we grieve his passing, we also celebrate his life and thank God for giving us this great human being and monument to human greatness.

May his soul rest in peace.

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