Even after he had retired from active politics Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, spent the rest of his life on earth on international peace-making, human rights and gender protection and campaign against HIV/AIDS
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
NELSON Mandela, former South African president, lived a life worthy of emulation by dedicating his life to the cause of humanity. For 67 years, he devoted his life to fight for a free South Africa where blacks would enjoy equal rights with their white counterparts. He was a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa. Aside his early struggle against apartheid policy in South Africa, his retirement life was devoted to conflict resolution, protection of human rights, especially the rights of children and gender equality.
After his retirement from active politics in 1999, Mandela maintained a strong international presence as an advocate of peace, reconciliation, and social justice, through the activities of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, established in 1999. The foundation focused on combating HIV/AIDS, rural development and school construction. Although, many analysts criticised him for failing to do enough to fight the pandemic during his presidency, the criticism did not detract him from devoting much of his time to the war that seemed to have killed more persons than all previous wars.
Apart from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, he also established the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in 2002, and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, Rhodes House, in the University of Oxford, in 2003, to provide postgraduate scholarships to African students. These projects were followed by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the 46664 campaign against HIV/AIDS. Mandela was a founding member of the Committee of Elders, a group of international leaders established in 2007 for the promotion of conflict resolution and problem solving throughout the world.
At retirement, Mandela became more vocal in criticising the hypocrisy of the Western powers. He strongly opposed the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo and called it an attempt by the world’s powerful nations to police the entire world. In 2003, he spoke out against the plans of the United States of America and the United Kingdom to launch a war in Iraq. He attacked the US in particular for the war mongering, asserting that it had committed more unspeakable atrocities across the world than any other nation. He cited the atomic bombing of Japan as a case point.
In June 2004, amid his failing health, Mandela announced that he was retiring from retirement and retreating from public life. Although he continued to meet with close friends and family but members of his foundation discouraged invitations for him to appear at public events and, as well, turned down most interview requests. He, however, retained some involvement in international affairs and encouraged Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, to resign over allegations of growing human rights abuses in the country. When this proved ineffective, he spoke out publicly against Mugabe in 2007, asking him to step down with residual respect and a modicum of dignity. In the same year, Mandela and Desmond Tutu convened a meeting of a group of world leaders in Johannesburg to contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to some of the world’s toughest problems.
Mandela spent the early part of his retirement delivering speeches at international events. In 2002, he gave the closing address at the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, and in 2004, he also spoke at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2008, when he celebrated his 90th birthday anniversary, he used the occasion to call on the rich to help the poor across the world. His 90th birthday anniversary was turned into an international event. Apart from South Africa, there were also celebrations in some major cities of the world.
But in 2009, the celebration assumed a new dimension. The birthday was observed as Mandela Day in South Africa and beyond. That year’s celebration was sponsored by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in collaboration with the 46664 Initiative, the foundation’s HIV/AIDS global awareness and prevention campaign.
Later that year the UN General Assembly declared that the day being observed annually as Nelson Mandela International Day, in recognition of his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom. The General Assembly resolution recognised Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity in conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights. The other areas of Mandela’s service were reconciliation, gender equality, rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledged his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.
Meanwhile, one of Mandela’s most recent appearances on the world stage was his involvement in the campaign to bring the World Cup to South Africa in 2010, the first time the tournament was held in Africa. During the campaign, he declared that there would be no better gift for Africa than staging the World Cup in 2010, the year marking a decade since the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Though he did not attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup due to the death of Zenani Mandela, his great granddaughter, in an auto accident, he was delighted by the crowds at the final.
During the opening ceremony of the World Cup, Danny Jordan, chief executive officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup local organising committee, said the role Mandela played in securing the right to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the country was unforgettable. Mandela was part of the delegation that presented South Africa’s bid to the FIFA executive in 2004 and was present on May 15, 2004, when Joseph Blatter, FIFA president, announced that South Africa had won the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“Who will never forget the images of him grasping the FIFA World Cup Trophy as the event was beamed around the world? Thanks to Mandela and his comrades that we as South Africans could even dare to dream about hosting the world’s biggest tournament. Also thanks to him that the world could finally trust us to deliver this event at a world class level. Today, June 11, 2010, thousands of South Africans and our friends from all over the world are cheering us. They are celebrating the opening of the world’s biggest sporting spectacle and the arrival of the world’s best footballers. And they will do so on the exact spot where tens of thousands of South Africans celebrated Mandela’s freedom in the first mass rally after his release,” Jordaan said.
He thanked Mandela for lending his support to the successful bid. “He gave us a momentum and self belief that we could achieve what many thought was impossible and we, as a country will for forever be grateful for that.” After the World Cup, Jacob Zuma, South African president, said the surge of national pride around the tournament had brought the country close to realising Mandela’s vision. “We came very close if we did not fully achieve your dream, father of one nation united in its diversity, celebrating its achievements and working together,” he said.