Thursday, February 29, 2024

World mourns ‘conscience keeper’s death’

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Washington/London: With moist eyes and tributes on their lips, people across the world on Friday mourned the death of global anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, hailed as a “true Gandhian” and an inspiration for millions like US President Barack Obama. Mandela, South Africa’s first elected black president and a colossus of 20th century politics, died at his home in Houghton, a suburb of Johannesburg, following a lengthy illness. He was 95.
“Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation, has departed,” South African President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address to the nation. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” he said. Rich tributes poured in from across the globe as world leaders paid their homages to the respected statesman. Describing himself as one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Mandela, Obama mourned his death and said that the world was unlikely to see a leader like him again.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action — the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against apartheid,” Obama told reporters soon after he was informed about Mandela’s death. “He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages,” he said of his fellow Nobel Peace laureate.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council also mourned Mandela’s demise, saying the South African leader was a “giant for justice” and a human inspiration who made great personal sacrifices in his life-long fight against racial oppression. “Nelson Mandela was a singular figure on the global stage, a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. I am profoundly saddened by his passing,” Ban said in his condolence message.
The African Union mourned the passing of Mandela, with its chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, saying, “Mandela has fought a good fight, and bowed out with great reverence.” Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II said she was “deeply saddened” by Mandela’s death. “The Queen was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela last night. He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. Prince Charles also paid a tribute to the world leader, saying, “Mr Mandela was the embodiment of courage and reconciliation. He was also a man of great humour and had a real zest for life.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron paid a rich tribute to Mandela, saying, “One of the brightest lights of our world has gone out. Nelson Mandela was not just a hero of our time, but a hero of all time, the first president of a free South Africa, a man who suffered so much for freedom and justice.”
China mourned the passing of Mandela and praised the former South African president as “an old friend of the Chinese people.” Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Mandela’s “historic contribution” to South Africa and the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Mandela as “one of the greatest politicians in modern times”. “Mandela, having gone through the most difficult ordeals, was committed to the end of his days to the ideals of humanism and justice,” Putin said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered condolences to the Mandela family on behalf of the Australian government and community. “Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader,” Abbott said. France’s president, François Hollande, said: “Nelson Mandela made history, that of South Africa and that of the whole world. A tireless fighter against apartheid, he defeated it with his courage, his obstinacy and his perseverance.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres, praised Mandela’s contribution to peace, saying, “He was a passionate advocate for democracy, a respected mediator, a Nobel peace prize laureate and above all a builder of bridges of peace and dialogue who paid a heavy personal price for his struggle in the years he spent in prison and fighting for his people.”
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, described Mandela as a “great leader” who “fought with a strong will to eliminate apartheid and achieved a great deal by putting national reconciliation at the centre of his nation-building”. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condoled Mandela’s death, saying, “The example of this great leader will guide all those who fight for social justice and peace in the world.” Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute to Mandela as a “great human being” who inspired others to change the world. “I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of a man who stood for human rights and for equality in this world,” Suu Kyi said.
FW de Klerk, who as South Africa’s last white president ordered Mandela’s release, called him a “unifier” and said he had “a remarkable lack of bitterness”. (Agencies)

Daughters hear of death at film premiere

LONDON: Prince William and others attending the London premiere of a new film about Nelson Mandela were told of his death on Thursday night as the closing credits rolled.
The news broke during the premiere. Stopping the screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was discussed, but Mandela’s daughters asked that the film continue, a spokesman with the production said on Thursday night.  His two youngest daughters, who were at the premiere, were told of their father’s death during the screening “and immediately left the cinema,” a statement from the Nelson Mandela Foundation said.
The film’s producer, Anant Singh, announced Mandela’s death once the film was over, and he called for a moment of silence. The audience included the film’s stars and William and his wife, Kate.  “It was extremely sad and tragic news,” William said upon leaving.  When asked on the red carpet on her way into the premiere about her father, Zindzi Mandela had said, “My father is fine. … He’s just a typical 95-year-old who is frail.”  Actor Idris Elba, who plays Mandela in the film, later said in a statement: “I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba’s family. We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth.” (Agencies)

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