A true hero whose legacy will live on

Bicester Advertiser: President Mandela at Oxford Town Hall in 1997 President Mandela at Oxford Town Hall in 1997

OXFORDSHIRE’S political, religious and community leaders have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, described as a “true global hero”.

Following the former South African president’s death on Thursday, people from across the county paid their respects to the 95-year-old.

And prayers were offered in thanksgiving for Mr Mandela at Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral yesterday morning.

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.”

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price met Nelson Mandela in Oxford in June 1997, when Mr Mandela was awarded the Freedom of the City.

He said: “I was lucky enough to spend over an hour with him and his family in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour after the ceremony. His personal charm, graciousness and human warmth were extraordinary. He was interested in everything to do with the city, especially young people. It was an unforgettable moment for Oxford.”

Lord Mayor of Oxford Dee Sinclair, who lived in South Africa in the 1970s, said: “It was with deep sadness I heard of the passing of Nelson Mandela.

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“Having lived in South Africa for a number of years and visited again only very recently, I am aware of the profound influence he has had in that country and beyond. He was much loved and respected across racial divides and his legacy lives on in the South African constitution.”

Dr Basil Mustafa, Nelson Mandela fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, met Mr Mandela when he visited the centre in 1997. He also met him in London in 2002 and at Rhodes House, Oxford, in 2003.

He said: “We were very saddened to hear of his death. He was certainly a world leader of great stature and the whole world will miss him a great deal.”

Ann Ducker, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, had a business in South Africa from the early 1970s until 2005.

She said: “I think Nelson Mandela has been a fantastic example for the rest of the world.”

Barry Norton, leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Nelson Mandela’s sad passing is a great loss to the South African nation. His forgiving attitude after 27 years in prison was paramount in unifying divisions in his country in a way that puts him on a pedestal with the very best of the world’s leaders.”

Didcot and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said: “Nelson Mandela was the greatest statesman of our age and perhaps any age. Imprisoned by a barbaric regime for 27 years he emerged not as a bitter man bent on revenge but as a great healer and leader.

“He brought his country in to the light as a democracy and served as it’s president. His story has inspired millions of people from every walk of life, and he has shown how love is the most powerful force in the world.”

Banbury MP Tony Baldry said: “I think it’s impossible to quantify the transformative impact Nelson Mandela had on South Africa and Africa as a whole.”

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  • Nelson Mandela is helped from the podium by Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, and former US President Bill Clinton, during a gala night to mark the centenary of the Rhodes Trust and the establishment of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, at Westminster in 2003

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, who was born in South Africa, said: “The fact that we are all struggling to put into words the transformational impact of Mandela’s life is a fitting tribute. He defied the rules: met injustice with forgiveness, conflict with reconciliation and division with unifying leadership. It is up to all of us now to honour his life’s work by continuing to fight oppression and human rights abuses wherever we find them”.

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  • With the Duke of Edinburgh in 1996, when he was honoured with a degree of Doctor of Civil Law in Oxford

 

Oxford University Vice-Chancellor Prof Andrew Hamilton added: “We mourn the passing of an extraordinary man, whose life and example has the power to teach us all.”

The Rhodes Trust, which was connected to Mr Mandela through The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a leadership development programme for Africa, held a remembrance service at Rhodes House in South Parks Road, Oxford, yesterday.

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  • Visiting the Said Business School and being greeted by Roy Jenkins in 2002

 

FORMER South African president Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, received numerous honours from the city of Oxford.

The Nobel Peace prizewinner visited on two occasions, but was also regularly in the thoughts of people in the city.

Mandela visited the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in George Street in July 1997 to deliver a keynote speech on international relations.

He also came to Oxford University’s Said Business School on April 15, 2002. There he spoke of his respect for the institution when opening a new 300-seat lecture theatre named in his honour.

He received an honorary degree from Oxford University at Buckingham Palace in 1996 – a Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma.

Oxford University won a dispute with Cambridge University over who was to present their degree first. Oxford was chosen as it was the oldest university and officials had got their invitation in first.

He was given the freedom of the city in 1997, following an appeal from the Oxford Anti-Apartheid Group in 1994 to consider giving him the honour.

Oriel College decided to name part of its junior common room after Mandela in 1986.

However, the decision was not unanimous and his portrait had to be taken down when the college hosted out-of-term conferences.

In 1988, youngsters at Wood Farm School wished Nelson Mandela a happy 70th birthday.

The pupils, inspired by the Nelson Mandela pop concert at Wembley, made him a birthday card from self portraits.

On his release in 1990, jubilant anti-apartheid campaigners celebrated with a Champagne party outside Oxford Town Hall.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith joined city councillors and Oxford City Anti-Apartheid Group in rejoicing as Mr Mandela stepped to freedom.

In May 1990, Mandela sent a personal message of thanks for support he received from an Oxford church. SS Mary and John in Cowley Road made a collection on Palm Sunday to give to the Mandelas.

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  • With the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, in February 2005
  • The UK joined the rest of the world in mourning the loss of the anti-apartheid hero as crowds gathered in London and elsewhere yesterday to remember the inspiring leader.
  • The Queen visited a plaque commemorating Mr Mandela's 1996 visit to Parliament after saying she was “deeply saddened” to learn of his death, and former Irish president Mary Robinson said the world felt like it had lost a family member.
  • In the US, President Barack Obama paid tribute to Mr Mandela saying he “took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice”.
  • The Spice Girls, who famously had an encounter with Nelson Mandela in which they claimed their "girl power" mantra put them on the same level as the statesman, spoke of their admiration for him. The meeting at Mr Mandela's residence in Pretoria made headlines around the world at the time.

LIFE OF A LEGEND

Rolihlahla Mandela, the son of a Thembu tribal chief, was born into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18, 1918.

In 1944 he married a nurse, Evelyn Mase and they had two sons and two daughters. They divorced in 1958. In 1952 Mr Mandela, a lawyer, set up the country’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo.

While he was working for the African National Congress (ANC) Mr Mandela was arrested in 1956 and charged with treason along with 155 others.

After a four-and-a-half year trial he was acquitted.

In 1958, he married his second wife, Winnie Madikizela. They had two daughters and divorced in 1996.

Mr Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years for leaving the country without a passport and incitement.

While in prison in 1964 he is convicted of sabotage and sentence to life imprisonment, being sent to Robben Island.

He was finally released on February 11, 1990.

In 1993 he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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  • Casting his ballot near Durban on April 27,2005

 

On May 10, 1994, he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

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  • Accompanied by Graça Machel at Oxford Town Hall in 1997

In 1998, on his 80th birthday, he married his third wife, Graca Machel. He stepped down as president in 1999 after one term.

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