The world is in mourning. After a long illness, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela died on 5 December, aged 95. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to Mandela, describing him as the nation’s greatest son and father of the South African people. UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon called him a “giant for justice”.
On behalf of the German nation, Federal President Joachim Gauck has conveyed his condolences to Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, and the people of South Africa.
The non-violent fight for democracy
Gauck said that the world had lost a great statesman in Nelson Mandela. As a man and as a political leader, he went on, Nelson Mandela had provided a shining example of how hatred, violence and racism could be overcome. Gauck paid tribute to the way Mandela, despite his time in prison, had found the courage and strength to lead his country to democracy on the path of non violence.
“Nelson Mandela showed not only that the struggle for political freedom can be won by peaceful means, however. He also showed how important it is to use this freedom responsibly and ensure that it is preserved. That is Nelson Mandela’s legacy – and the mission he leaves to us all,” the Federal President continued.
Our obligation to Mandela's legacy
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also spoke in tribute to Mandela’s peaceful struggle against the apartheid system: “His name will always be associated with the peaceful transition from the iniquitous apartheid regime to democracy and the rule of law. And not only that – Nelson Mandela symbolises the fight against inequality and racism, the struggle to conquer hatred and, in short, to bring about a better world. We have an obligation to uphold his legacy.”
A shining example
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel described Nelson Mandela’s message of reconciliation as “a shining example”: “His political legacy of non violence and rejection of any form of racism will remain an inspiration to people around the world for years to come.”
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting the racist apartheid system, including a long term of incarceration on Robben Island off Cape Town. In 1994, he became the first President of the democratic South Africa. With his non-violent struggle for democracy, Mandela paved the way for reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa’s “rainbow nation”.