AAPSO Tributes to Nelson Mandela

"A light has extinguished and there is darkness" This is how Prime Minister of India Javaharlal Nehru characterized the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 at the hand of a rightwing Hindu extremist. Nelson Mandela was not a Mahatma Gandhi. But some try to project him as another Gandhi.

Nelson Mandela was a towering stalwart in the twentieth century. Under colour bar ridden South Africa; rules were made to protect the ruling minority of whites at the expense of the rest of the people. The society was stratified according to which white people remained at the top followed by coloured, Indians and the Last Natives (Black Africans). In the buses, there were separate seats for the blacks. Government buildings and hospitals there were separate entrances for them. They had separate public markets and parks too occupying menial jobs subservient to others.

In 1952 after passing out as an attorney along with his lifelong friends Sisolo and Oliver Tambo, "he provided free or low cost legal counsel to poor blacks who lacked legal representation".

In the true sense of the term, Nelson Mandela personified the concept of human rights. "Freeing the subject people from colonialism and exploitation is human rights in true sense. One cannot remain subject to torture and unjust rule and speak of human rights.

As a leader of the African National Congress, he rallied around all the forces who struggled against this pernicious system of apartheid. In his long walk to freedom he had a lifelong friendship with Joe Slovo "a  white man of whom Mandela said " without whom I would have accomplished very little". In 1960 police gunned down 69 unarmed protesters in the town of "Sharpville" and the South African government banned the ANC and allied parties.

Nelson Mandela opted to be only a single term as president after the dismantling of apartheid system. But during this single term his achievement of reconciliation among South African people with the setting of "Truth Commission" is a great lesson to other leaders. He believed in Blacks, Whites, Coloured Indians and others to share equally the fruits of South African freedom.

His 27 years of incarceration in Robbin Island only "steeled" his spirit so that all communities live in peace and harmony.

In responding to the South African television before his retirement, he said "I should like to be remembered as an ordinary South African who together with others has made his humble contribution" And "I leave it to the public how they should remember me".

AAPSO had long relationship with ANC. Several top A.N.C. leaders were members of the Permanent Secretariat including Alfred Nzo who became the first Black Foreign Minister of South Africa after he was freed and when he flew to Cairo his wish to meet AAPSO Secretariat members in the hotel he stayed. Also he met them at the African Society. Mandela never forgot to the end the contribution made by AAPSO to the dismantling of Apartheid.

AAPSO on behalf of all its national committes pay homage to this great man.