R.I.P. Nelson Mandela: The World Reacts

Feature by Bram E. Gieben | 06 Dec 2013
  • Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, the former South African President and civil rights campaigner who led South Africa out of the apartheid era, passed away last night after an extended illness at the age of 95. Mandela was the South African presidency from 1994 to 1995, becoming the first black South African to hold the office. As a young anti-apartheid revolutionary, he was tried for treason in 1962 and imprisoned for 27 years. In the early 90s, he published his autobiography Long Walk To Freedom, and in 1994 was instrumental in setting up South Africa's first multi-racial elections. In 1993 he was given the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, he has campaigned on issues such as poverty, sexual health, and other issues affecting his homeland. 

Glasgow has a special relationship with Mandela – he visited the city in 1993 shortly after his release, and was given the freedom of the city in a ceremony which honoured him for his civil rights work, and in recognition of the long campaign to free him, in which the people of Glasgow were deeply involved from 1962 onwards. Mandela never forgot the solidarity the people of Glasgow showed towards him, commenting in his acceptance speech in 93: "While we were physically denied our freedom in the country of our birth, a city 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free." For a full account of Glasgow's relationship with Mandela, read this article on the BBC News site.

Voices from the world of music and film swarmed social media on the announcement of his death to show their support and admiration, with the hip-hop community leading teh charge. Public Enemy's Chuck D, a long-time Mandela supporter, tweeted: "The mission to FREE Mandela was woven into the blueprint of PublicEnemy using RAP & Hip Hop to recognize THIS MAN RIP... To recognize what NelsonMandela DID for our RIGHTS to FIGHT wrong simply means building a human bridge across EARTH.."

Fellow rapper LL Cool J tweeted: "What a difference one person can make." Former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello described Mandela on Twitter as a: "Hero. Freedom Fighter. An iron will and a heart of mercy," adding: "Thanks for your struggle and your example." A Tribe Called Quest's Ali-Shaheed Muhammad also took to Twitter to describe Mandela as a "Beacon of Peace," while bandmate Q-Tip described him as "a true fighter in every sense of the word." Wu-Tang Clan's RZA remarked: "Our great champion of Freedom Justice & Equality has made his physical departure today."

Meanwhile actors Idris Elba and Morgan Freeman, both of whom have portrayed Mandela on film, offered their reaction to his passing. "What an honour it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world," said Elba in a statement. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family... We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth, I only feel honoured to be associated with him. He is in a better place now." Freeman commented: "Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honour, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve - a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind.As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go."

Other Hollywood stars chiming in to show their sympathy included Denzel Wasington, who stated: "He will continue to live through all of us as a symbol of hope, faith and strength." Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted: "I was convinced Nelson Mandela would NEVER get out of prison. When he did, and became President, I decided right then anything was possible."

Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali also offered his thoughts: "What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge." Finally, South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who had a long association with Mandela, offered their thoughts on his passing in an extended statement, beginning: "The Father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, has finished his journey."