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Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

As I was settling down to sleep last night, BBC Radio 4 interrupted programming to bring listeners the news that Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, had died at the age of 95.

The sad news was not unexpected, his health had been failing for several years and a series of scares during the summer had brought his mortality into the forefront of the South African conscious, but it still came as a shock which will continue to be felt for the considerable future.

While I have never visited South Africa, I do feel a connection to the country. My grandfather was born and grew up in Johannesburg and I still have relatives near Cape Town. Since the end of Apartheid, much has changed in South Africa and it is undeniably a much fairer society. However, much remains to be done.

Mandela was the figurehead of so many movements to improve the situation in South Africa. Yes, there was violence on both sides of the conflict, but the international pressure and boycotts are an example of when peaceful pressure actually gets results.

Throughout history, there have been many great world leaders, but there have been very few great world leaders. Mandela's influence reached far beyond South Africa's borders and he was respected around the world as an advocate for peace, democracy, fairness and the fight against poverty. While he is now gone, his ideas and legacy are here to stay.

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