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Story Highlights

  • As a Jamaican living in post apartheid South Africa, he was extremely saddened by the news of the elderly Statesman’s death.
  • Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pretoria, Dr. Cheryl Stewart, was quick to point out that she owed a great deal to President Mandela.
  • The nation will bid final farewell to Mr. Mandela on Sunday, December 15, when he will be laid to rest in Qunu.

Jamaicans in South Africa are among millions of people from around the world who continue to reflect on the life and contributions of former South African President, Nelson Mandela, following his death on December 5.

JIS News caught up with a few who shared their reaction to the passing of one of the world’s greatest icons.

Desmond Smith, a Jamaican who has been living in South Africa for the past seven years, recounts his earliest memory of the late President, which dates back to his days as a student at the University of the West Indies, Mona. “Back then as a student body, we were much attuned to the liberation struggles across Africa,” he said.

“Throughout the years my admiration for his vision, patience, tolerance, and forgiving spirit grew. He was truly one of a kind,” Mr. Smith added.

He further explained that as a Jamaican living in post apartheid South Africa, he was extremely saddened by the news of the elderly Statesman’s death, as Mandela “remained the conscience of the nation.”

Mr. Smith, who spent most of his time working with the United Nations in various African countries, including Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, and South Sudan, indicated that he was not surprised by the general feeling of sadness throughout the continent.

“The South African struggle was one of the most brutal against a terrible regime. Not many persons would have taken the approach he took towards dismantling the system of apartheid. It is well known that a lot of persons would have wanted a war, but the results are here for all to see,” he told JIS News.

Final year Norman Manley law students, Donia Fuller and Ralston Dickson, also shared their reflections with JIS News. Both students echoed a sense of gratitude to have been in South Africa at such a monumental time in the country’s history. “It is amazing to see the overwhelming response from the international arena. All kinds of people from different types of political systems have great things to say about him. Persons have come to expect certain things from South African politicians because of his legacy,” Ms. Fuller said.

“He is a symbol of humility. Being in prison for so many years and yet he did not display any violence towards the white apartheid government… I don’t know what I would have done if I was in that situation. He has really made a mark… one that is greater than the ordinary human being could have,” Mr. Dickson added.

The students were in South Africa to participate in the 5th World Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which was held at the University of Pretoria, from December 7 to 10.  The team won the competition.

Like many Jamaicans living in South Africa, post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pretoria, Dr. Cheryl Stewart, was quick to point out that she owed a great deal to President Mandela and the other persons who fought against the apartheid regime.

“The fact that I can now not feel afraid to be in South Africa, even though I am black and I am not from here, is indeed a significant result of the end of apartheid and the forming of the rainbow nation,” Dr. Stewart told JIS News.

“Nelson Mandela is in a similar category for me with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in that it takes a special kind of person to inspire that many people of diverse races and cultural groups to put down their weapons and to work together to build a nation,” she added.

The nation will bid final farewell to Mr. Mandela on Sunday, December 15, when he will be laid to rest in Qunu, a small rural district in the Eastern Cape where he grew up.