By Paul Ndiho
Nelson Mandela, the revered South African anti-apartheid icon who spent 27 years in prison, led his country to democracy and became its first black president, died Thursday at home. He was 95.
“He is now resting,” said South African President Jacob Zuma. “He is now at peace.”
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” he continued. “Our people have lost a father.”
A state funeral will be held, and Zuma called for mourners to conduct themselves with “the dignity and respect” that Mandela personified.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has not been seen in public for months, since falling ill, but Washingtonians get to see him every day, in the form of a statue in his likeness, unveiled Saturday.
Nelson Mandela’s unwavering courage, forgiveness and hope touched and inspired people all around the world. He showed that the dream of a just society is possible and he challenged our generation to lead the way towards it.
In September 2013 I covered the unveiling of Nelson Mandela’s statue at the South African embassy, Mass Ave in Washington D.C. and here is recap and a special tribute to Nelson Mandela.
High level officials from south Africa’s government, members of the U.S. Congress, civil society who advocated for an end to apartheid through boycotts and calls for sanctions, and so many others, gathered by the renovated embassy to witness the unveiling of the larger than life statue, more than two years in the making. Ibrahim Rasool, South Africa’s ambassador to the U.S., said Mandela’s legacy is enduring.
“For me there is no post Mandela. Whatever happens mortally to Mr. Mandela is between Mr. Mandela and his creator. I think what we are doing is to make sure that his legacy endures, to make sure that his example endures, and therefore whoever comes after Mandela anywhere in the world, will always refer to the man who changed the fortunes of a nation, who united irreconcilable forces, and who gave power to the values of reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy. ”
The world has been concerned about the health of Mr. Mandela, discharged recently after a long period of hospitalization for lung infection. His daughter zindzi, Mandela, dispelled rumors that Mr. Mandela has passed, saying his alive, and statue will preserve his legacy.
“It’s a very proud moment for us as a family and south Africans as a whole. And especially now that he’s frail. His health is very frail. I think it’s the greatest way of gifting him, in terms of the preservation of his legacy….He’s a fighter, he’s strong, he’s still with us…I think it’s great to say, that here’s an ordinary boy from the village of Qunu, who’s impacted on the global landscape. That his values are there to share beyond the borders of South Africa.”
The fight to end apartheid was a global fight that had roots here in the United States. Key players in the anti-apartheid movement including people like Randall Robinson, founder and former president of Trans Africa forum, advocates who later became members of congress like Maxine Walters, and others led protests and called for U.S. Sanctions against South Africa. U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
“There is a wealth of emotion that I cannot express. The connectedness of unveiling this statue in the very year that martin king who had great admiration for this great warrior, this man of peace, nelson Mandela, Madiba. To come together at the same time of martin’s speech, the inspiration that we received, from this person, who with shackles, from Robben Island, freed himself and freed his people”
William Lucy, president emeritus, congress of black trade unions.
“We are pleased that we made any contribution to the democratization of South Africa. Secondly, the location of the statue here at the South African embassy, will forever be a tribute to the work that was done right here in Washington, DC. In raising the issue of apartheid so the country as a whole could understand the implications of a system like that continuing.”
Nicole lee, president, Trans Africa:
“I think it shows the full revolution circle that we all wanted to see happen, years and years ago. African Americans, students, leaders, all came to this embassy to protest what we saw as one of the greatest injustices on the planet, which was the apartheid regime, but also the U.S. Support for the apartheid regime. Through hard work and dedication and just not believing all things are possible, apartheid crumbled.”
The chair of African union commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma, also a South Africa, says the task now is to ensure the legacy of Mr. Mandela lives on, through concerted efforts to improve the lives of ordinary people.
“Mandela has taught us that we should love other people, we should respect other people, we should fight for children to have food, have education, we must make sure that people have houses, water, electricity, and that the well-being of all people, is what we should be struggling for.”
South Africans in the crowd said they could not be prouder of Mr. Mandela, and the light he has shone on South Africa;
“It’s a historic moment for us as south Africans, we are so proud, because you know, we’ve been long in the struggle, and eventually we are free — the legacy of Mandela must continue and we still want people to do whatever Mandela taught us.
Onlookers posed, and gazed admiringly at the statue, made out of bronze. Gene Doyle is the sculptor.
“I was ask to sculpt it as Nelson Mandela looked as he came out of prison, with his arm up in salute, which is to represent unity and strength—“when I sculpted him, I wanted to capture the man in the moment, and I hope that is what I achieve.