Like many many others I was saddened to hear of the death of Nelson Mandela. His death has touched many people and it is clear that he leaves an amazing legacy, a legacy which it is hard to live up to.
Growing up and becoming politically aware in the 1980s I was aware of Mandela and the terrible injustice of apartheid. Probably one of the first political actions I took was to attend (very briefly) the regular picket of the South African Consulate in Glasgow in what is now called Nelson Mandela Place. I should probably have been doing my Modern Studies project at the Mitchell Library but supporting the South African struggle seemed more important. I also rather liked the Specials song Free Nelson Mandela and this prompted me to find out more about Mandela and the ANC's struggle.
I was lucky enough to hear Nelson Mandela speak once. This was when he addressed the Labour Party conference in the year 2000. The video of that speech is posted above. Just to be in the same room as him was a great privilege. Mandela was a man who knew a great injustice in his life and he managed to overcome this without bitterness. This was an amazing achievement.
I would like to pay tribute to my predecessors on the City of Dundee District Council who had the foresight to award the Freedom of the City of Dundee to Nelson Mandela at a time when he was still imprisoned and many people said he was a terrorist. As a member of the City Council I felt that it was fitting that we observed a minutes silence in Nelson Mandela's memory at the City Council meeting this week. It is also right that there is a book of condolence available for everyone to sign in the City Chambers. I was pleased to sign this myself earlier this week.
As I said Nelson Mandela left a legacy which will be difficult for others to follow but we should do something. I am inspired by this quote from Nelson Mandela, 'Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.' For my part I will try to remember this at all times and I hope that it will in some way influence my actions as a member of Dundee City Council. I would also encourage people to support the work of ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa).
Nelson Mandela - Rest in Peace.