JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Prime Minister said it was important to recognize the extent to which Jamaica's history and that of the people of South Africa are interconnected.
  • Jamaica's role in the anti-Apartheid struggle is etched forever in history.
  • Jamaica played a pivotal role in setting up the International Convention Against Apartheid in Sport at the UN and in isolating South Africa in sport.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, led a joint sitting of Parliament on December 13, to pay tribute to the late former South African President, Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5.

Expressing condolences to the people of South Africa, who lost their first black President, the Prime Minister said it was important to recognize the extent to which Jamaica’s history and that of the people of South Africa are interconnected and why the passing of Mr. Mandela has meant so much to the nation.

“I am proud of the role that Jamaica played in the liberation struggles for a free South Africa. We were the first country in the Western Hemisphere and second only to India in the world to impose trade and travel sanctions on South Africa as early as 1957,” she reminded.

She noted that Jamaica’s role in the anti-Apartheid struggle is etched forever in history.

“Our politicians, our sportsmen and women, our artistes, our church men and women and Rastafarian brethren all stood united with our South African brothers and sisters in the struggle,” the Prime Minister said.

Mrs. Simpson Miller acknowledged the courageous and defiant stance of Premier Norman Washington Manley in 1957 in imposing sanctions; followed by former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer’s stout advocacy for human rights at the United Nations in the early 1960s; and the seminal role played by former Prime Minister Michael Manley in pulling the South and the international community together in opposing apartheid.

She also recalled that Jamaica played a pivotal role in setting up the International Convention Against Apartheid in Sport at the UN and in isolating South Africa in sport.

“We adopted the South African struggle as our own, recognizing that the struggle for justice is indivisible,” she said.

The Prime Minister noted that Mr. Mandela’s visit to Jamaica in 1991, with his then wife Winnie, the second made to any country following his release, was a clear recognition of the role Jamaica played in advancing the struggle.

The Prime Minister, who has just returned from attending a memorial service for the former leader, said travelling the many thousands of miles to that country, “provided real, true and invaluable insight into the importance of the work of the man we honour today.”

“It allowed me to see and feel, first hand, the results of over half a century of his struggle,” she added.

Mrs. Simpson Miller underscored that Mr. Mandela’s success was the social engineering of South Africa into a ‘can do nation’.

“He sought to engender a national philosophy that transformed an ‘anti-culture’ – a culture of perennial opposition – into a united, common ‘pro-culture’,  a culture with its eyes on productivity, prosperity, success and growth,” she said.

“Mandela’s legacy must teach us that in developing nations’ quests for growth and national development, unity, a common vision and proactive engagement of the people must play a part,” she continued.

Mrs. Simpson Miller said that Mr. Mandela will be remembered as “one of the finest gifts of humanity; the incarnation of hope; the personification of virtue and majesty; a benchmark that as individuals and as a collective, we should strive to emulate, if not to attain.”

She remarked that there have been only a handful of people throughout the broad span of human history who have gripped the hearts and minds of  such a wide cross-section of humanity, as has Nelson Mandela, noting that his memorial  service on Tuesday was  attended  by nearly 100 world leaders, including four Presidents of the United States —the largest such gathering since the funeral of Winston Churchill.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness, spoke of Mr. Mandela’s emotional intelligence and the lack of spite he demonstrated to his former oppressors despite all he endured.

“He transcended the natural base instincts of human kind, hate, revenge, bitterness to become an international emblem of magnanimity, dignity and forebearance,” Mr. Holness said.

He noted that a lesson to be learned from Mr. Mandela is his ability to rise above the injustice and cruelty of others and focus on what is right for the people. He observed that without Mr. Mandela’s wise and strategic approach to political power, South Africa might have descended into civil war long before it reached its imperfect, but progressive state of democracy.