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Story Highlights

  • Former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson, who led the tributes, described the late freedom fighter as a “giant”.
  • Mr. Patterson highlighted the role played by Jamaica in ending the apartheid system in South Africa.
  • South African High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Mathu Joyini, eulogized Mr. Mandela as a “gift from God".

A wide cross section of Jamaicans and other nationals turned out at a Memorial Service on December 12, at the University of the West Indies, Mona Chapel, to celebrate the life of the late former South African President, Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5, at the age of 95.

Among those in attendance were Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen and Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, who was in charge of the Government in the absence of  Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who was on her way home from South Africa, where she attended a Memorial Service for Mr. Mandela.

Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Andrew Holness; former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga; members of the Cabinet, Members of Parliament; members of the Diplomatic Corps, and members of the Rastafarian community also attended the service.

Former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson, who led the tributes, described the late freedom fighter as a “giant”, whose memory will endure for ages to come.

Mr. Patterson, in highlighting the role played by Jamaica in ending the apartheid system in South Africa, noted that Jamaicans saw the struggle there as their own.

“The people of Jamaica saw Mandela’s fight as our own. In 1957, long before we became an independent nation, Jamaica imposed economic and trade sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, and prohibited travel to that country. We were the first in the Western hemisphere, and only second to India, in the world to do so,” Mr. Patterson informed.

“As the struggle wore on, the cry for freedom and justice was given voice by intellectuals, writers and playwrights. In the protest music of the era, our own Bob Marley was at the forefront encouraging all oppressed people to stand up for their rights; our conscious sportsmen also played their part, as the campaign was widened to include a ban against apartheid on the playing fields,” he added.

Mr. Patterson told the congregation that along with the local pressures to end an evil system against the majority in South Africa, “it was Nelson Mandela, from behind his prison bars, who solidified the resistance, and attracted increasing international support.”

“His quiet dignity, his refusal to compromise with the regime for his personal liberty, and his consistent and powerful cry of freedom for South Africa, were pillars on which the irresistible pressure would mount,” he noted.

The former Prime Minister pointed out that the true “measure” of the anti-apartheid icon was revealed at the time of his release from prison when civil revolt was pondered by his people. He said Mr. Mandela demonstrated the qualities that made him a symbol of struggles for principles and values which are enduring and universal.

For her part, South African High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Mathu Joyini, eulogized Mr. Mandela as a “gift from God, and struggle was his life.”

“Under his leadership South Africa has learnt to forgive, to embrace to be the Rainbow nation,” she said.

The High Commissioner noted that Jamaica played a significant role in the struggle against apartheid. “It is a role that South Africa does not take lightly, and shall never forget,” she said.

The service was a collaboration between the Government and the South African High Commission.