People in Rugby react to the death of Nelson Mandela

MPMC Nelson Mandela
MPMC Nelson Mandela

The Bishop of Coventry has paid tribute to Nelson Mandela who died last night (Thursday).

Rugbeians have been sharing their thoughts and memories of Nelson Mandela after the iconic anti-apartide revolutionary died yesterday (December 5) aged 95.

Some in Rugby were lucky to have heard Mandela speak in person. Lecturer Julie Weekes, said: “The whole labour movement in the 1970’s challenged apartheid. We even ran special courses on it for union reps. I remember taking part in lots of pickets outside the SA embassy in Trafalgar Square and going to pop concerts too to raise awareness and then later to celebrate his release. I was also lucky enough to hear him speak in Birmingham when he visited.”

Mark Pawsey MP added: ““Neslon Mandela was a symbol for peace; a man who broke down barriers, shone a spot light on discrimination and prejudice and whose life has inspired, and will continue to inspire, generations.

“One of my most vivid memories of Mandela is the iconic image from the 1995 Rugby World Cup where he presented victorious South African host captain François Pienaar with the William Webb Ellis trophy wearing a Springboks shirt and cap. A extraordinary moment in South African and world history. I have had the privilege of hearing Pienaar talk of this moment in Parliament and of the affect this had on the South African players at the time and the nation on the whole to this day.

“He was a remarkable man and will be sadly missed.”

Local Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) supporter Gerry White added, “Always having been active supporters of the anti-apartheid movement, my sister and I went to South Africa to celebrate her 50th birthday and to see for ourselves the changes that Mandela’s recent election victory had brought about. There was a wonderful feeling of optimism everywhere we went in Cape Town, Jo’burg, Pretoria and the rural Eastern Cape.

“Our most moving moment was when we stood on the very spot at the parliament buildings in Pretoria where Mandela had so recently taken his oath as President. We probably will never see his like again - a great fighter for freedom as well as a great person.”

Pete McLaren, spokesman for Rugby TUSC said: “Members and supporters of Rugby TUSC have been collecting their experiences and memories of Nelson Mandela and the fight against one of the most extreme forms of racism – apartheid in South Africa,” TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren has informed us. “I remember how I watched the film Cry Freedom with our then nine year old daughter Karla, and I think she was moved to tears even more than I was at the death of Steven Biko and the actions of the repressive anti apartheid regime.

“It certainly helped form her political views. I also went to the Wembley concerts in 1988 and 1990, the first organised in support of Mandela’s release from prison, the second just after his release when it was so moving to be part of the audience, all 80,000 of whom gave him an eight minute standing ovation before he spoke.”

The Bishop of Coventry, The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has also paid tribute. Rev Cocksworth said: “I know that you will want to join me in expressing our sadness to the family of Nelson Mandela and to the people of South Africa as they mourn the passing of – in the words of President Zuma – ‘South Africa’s greatest son’. We also join them in celebrating the life of one of the most remarkable people of modern history.

“I have just been reading one of the finest speeches of the twentieth century. It was given by Nelson Mandela in 1964 when he was already under arrest. It concludes with these words: ‘I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’”