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Nelson Mandela – freedom fighter


Today we are mourning Nelson Mandela.

I had the privilege and honour of meeting him on three occasions: in February 1990 in Durban, just after his release from Robben Island; in 1996 in Capetown when he was elected President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers of which I was Treasurer; and in 1997, when his partner Graça Machel was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Essex University.

But I will never forget watching him and Joe Slovo, the great South African Communist, address a huge rally in the Soweto Stadium during the first free elections in 1994.

Nelson Mandela was not a saint, he was a freedom fighter, a hero of one of the great struggles for national liberation. Today he would be branded a terrorist.

On 19 May 1990 he caused a scandal when he visited Libya and thanked Col Gaddafi, saying: “You have given military training to South Africans who wanted to obtain their liberation through armed struggle. In our situation, as in other countries, an armed struggle is one of the most effective ways for fighting for political change in our country. Your readiness to provide us with the facilities of forming an army of liberation indicated your commitment to the fight for peace and human rights in the world.” On another occasion Mandela said “Those who feel irritated by our friendship with President Gaddafi can go jump in the pool.” It is as a freedom fighter that Nelson Mandela will be remembered.

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