We will always cherish Mandela’s friendship: Pranab

Johannesberg: For India, the passing away of former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela represents the departure of a venerated elder and a great soul, India’s President Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday.

“For India, the passing of Nelson Mandela represents the departure of a venerated elder, a great soul. We pray for his eternal peace,” the president said here.

He was speaking at a memorial service organised at the jam-packed FNB Stadium at Soweto for the former South African president and global statesman who died Dec 6 at the age of 95.


Mandela, fondly called Madiba, his Xhosa clan name, was admired in India, said the president.

“Madiba lived a life of sacrifice and privation as he pursued a seemingly impossible goal for his people – and the world is richer for his legacy. We, in India, have long admired him – and all that he stood for – and we will always cherish his friendship and love for our people,” Mukherjee said.

Noting that Mandela was a visionary, the president said he inspired all.

“To us, Nelson Mandela was a visionary. He epitomised an uncommon humaneness that inspired all of mankind. He was an icon of irreversible social and economic change – the kind of transformation and emancipation that his people had only dreamt of,” he said.

“He guided his nation, bruised by decades of apartheid and violence, to embrace his simple message of tolerance and harmonious co-existence,” the president said while terming Mandela as “a towering personality of great compassion and wisdom”.

“Indeed, his life and struggles – which represented ‘hope’ for the downtrodden in South Africa and all over the world – remind us of the principles that the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, stood for,” he said.

According to the president, in the face of the severest persecution, punishment and relentless oppression, Mandela continued his non-violent struggle “with dignity and pride, refusing to be intimidated”.

“He never diminished his commitment to his kind of satyagraha against injustice and inequality. His stoic determination, patience and magnanimity reminded us, in India, of the revolutionary methods of Mahatma Gandhi,” he said.

India was honoured to confer its highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna on Mandela, Mukherjee said.

“It was an honour for Indians to confer upon Madiba our highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna when he visited India in 1990,” he said.

“In 1995, when Mandela visited India as the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, he visited Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram and said that it was for him a homecoming, a pilgrimage,” Mukherjee recalled.

“We, on our part, associate South Africa with the first chapter of Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement. Gandhiji had staked his career as a budding lawyer in South Africa to resist segregation and inequality – before he embarked for India and took up, in India, the same cause,” the Indian president said. (IANS)

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