ON MONDAY morning I spent ten minutes on a Glasgow street, reading the touching tributes and casting my eyes over the beautiful flowers which had been left in homage to the great Nelson Mandela. Over the past week, no name will have featured more in the media than his has. And as I stood in the area of Glasgow named after the former South African president, I remembered how as a youngster I’d watched Mandela on TV at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, lifting the trophy with Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, but looking back the significance of that moment was lost on me.
Standing in Nelson Mandela Place, I tried to sum up Madiba in one word, before quickly realising it was a rather difficult task. It’s worth mentioning, I wasn’t the only person marvelling over the poignant messages of condolence or the neatly-arranged floral display. Far from it – and a testament to how influential a figure Mandela was and will continue to be.
Those close to me know how strong my views are on equality, they are views which have been nurtured and strengthened as I’ve grown older. Mandela was a champion of equality, and for this reason he is a man who I have grown to admire deeply. South Africa is not a country without its flaws, there is still vast economic disparity, the wealthiest chamber of society is still a section of the white population, and life in predominantly black areas can be extremely harsh. But the apartheid regime which suppressed so many because of the colour of their skin no longer exists.
Mandela was crucial to the end of years of segregation in South Africa. However, apartheid did not die when Madiba rose to power. Today it still exists, nowhere more so than the Middle East and the apartheid state of Israel. A state which continues to persecute the people of Palestine, a state which Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a survivor of apartheid South Africa, describes as worse than his own country ever was.
Without international pressure, the end of apartheid would not have come about in South Africa. Mandela was the arrow tip of a massive campaign to rid his country of a brutal regime. What would be more of a tribute to the great man, than a global effort to end Israeli apartheid of the Palestinians? Indeed, Mandela himself compared the histories of his people and the Palestinians and deemed their struggles to be of similar circumstance. The control and domination of people because of their colour, ethnicity, culture, religious views or any other matter is a violation of human rights.
In Palestine, indigenous people have been evicted from their own lands. They are forced to live in harsh conditions without basic human necessities such as food, water and medicine. Military checkpoints prevent people from traveling to work, to see relatives, to hospital and even children from attending school.
Mandela fought against this kind of inequality his entire life, and I’m sure he hopes that in his absence the world uses his legacy as a springboard to tackling such oppression.
Oh, and the one word I settled on to describe Madiba was: Hope. Nelson Mandela gave hope to millions.