Published on Friday, December 6, 2013 by Greenpeace by Kumi Naidoo
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013). (Credit: United Burundian Media News)
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” –Nelson Mandela speaking at the 90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu, Walter Sisulu Hall, Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa, 18 May 2002.
Nelson Mandela was never really a prisoner, but a free man always, and now, forever. As a South African, a comrade in the struggle to liberate my homeland from the evil of apartheid and a citizen of the world, my heart is heavy today. The loss was to be expected, but remains hard to bear.
The world has lost a true leader, a true father and a true inspiration. To say he lived a life of significance barely does it justice, and it is not over — he leaves a profound legacy of hope in a world still wracked by injustice and inequity. His inspiration will live on in my heart and in the hearts’ of people everywhere.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during these hard times. The world has collectively drawn a breath and is mourning. This is a time for reflection and quiet contemplation of a life well lived, for a man well loved.
I was 15 years old when I first heard the name Mandela, or Madiba, as he is fondly known in Africa. In apartheid South Africa he was public enemy number one. Shrouded in secrecy, myth and rumour, the media called him ‘The Black Pimpernel’. He was able to avoid the police, using several disguises — a favorite of which was that of a chauffeur — until the CIA colluded with the apartheid regime to ensure his capture. In Durban, where I was born and grew up, and all over Africa, he was a hero! Now he is a hero to the world.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” he told the University of the Witwatersrand in 2003.
Thinking back to how he shaped my early life as an activist; during the apartheid regime I first stood up to in protest against inequality in education — I fought apartheid education