China · South Africa

RIP Nelson Mandela

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Yesterday was a sad day because of the death of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former leader, freedom fighter, peace advocate and “unifier,” not to mention global icon. He was ailing for a long time but he was dignified and respected to the end. Here’s a short piece about his relationship with China which he visited in 1999 as president. It’s interesting that he had an open stance for a while regarding Taiwan. State media like CCTV reported on his death, with heavy coverage on TV, which is not surprising, as was the respectful comments coming from China’s government. However, the symbolism behind Mandela and his struggle raises interesting issues for China. Mandela’s longtime fight against the apartheid regime of his country is something China can openly respect as fighting “imperialism” in the form of Western, white power, though on the other hand, people like Mandela who was in prison for so long due to his stance against the authorities won’t have it easy in China, something that some Chinese have noted online.

Most people probably know that Mandela spent over 25 years in prison and continuously pushed for peaceful settlement with the apartheid regime and the whites in his country, having changed his views early on in his incarceration (he was originally imprisoned for terrorist attacks in which people died). Besides his time in jail and success in overturning apartheid, he continued to have a great impact after his release including sport and on the economy as he oversaw a new era for South Africa. The country still has serious problems, ranging from crime to poverty to AIDS, but the blame and responsibility cannot be foisted onto Mandela, but on his party and their leadership. Leaders from around the world will come to his funeral, while the world and his nation mourns.

The SCMP has a decent, touching personal story about Mandela from one of their staff, a South African. It’s a little sad since it touches on things like charity fraud (done by people close to Mandela, not himself), being exploited, and the loneliness of growing old, no matter how noble one’s achievements and status were. That’s also exactly what makes it a good read in seeing a more vulnerably, human side to Mandela. Enjoy this list of his most memorable and meaningful quotes to understand more of his conviction and beliefs.

In 2010, I went to South Africa where I visited several sites related to Mandela, from exhibits in museums to his former house in Soweto and his former prison on Robben Island, off of Cape Town.

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His former house in Soweto, Johannesburg.

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This was part of an exhibition on the life of Mandela in the Slave Lodge, a former slave-trading building turned museum, in Cape Town. As you can see from this display, it didn’t shy away from talking about some of his not so good attributes.

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His former cell in the prison on Robben Island.

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