A Visionary for a Better Tomorrow - Celebrating Nelson Mandela | Helen Clark

18 Jul 2012

Nelson Mandela in the General Assembly Hall Nelson Mandela addresses the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran

Nelson Mandela International Day is an occasion for us all to celebrate the vision of this extraordinary man for freedom, peace and justice; his service to humanity; and the hope for a better tomorrow which he represents to this day.

Many in my generation in my country were inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision, and were appalled and disgusted by the apartheid system in South Africa which grossly discriminated against people on the grounds of race. Dismantling that system and building a new free and democratic South Africa is the cause to which Mr. Mandela has devoted his life.

In faraway New Zealand, the struggle for freedom in South Africa divided our small nation for many years. The major link between the two countries was rugby football, with the two national teams usually considered the best in the world.

But South Africa’s team had a fundamental flaw – it was racially selected. In New Zealand, Maori players had long been prominent at all levels of the game. Yet up to and including the All Black tour of South Africa in 1960, Maori players were left at home when the All Blacks played there.

A citizens’ movement to oppose that injustice and eventually to campaign comprehensively against apartheid was formed. I myself was actively engaged in the Halt All Racist Tours movement as a student in 1970. Involvement in this cause was one of the major motivations for my entry into politics and public life.

The New Zealand campaign against apartheid was part of the broad international solidarity movement which formed in support of the huge struggle taking place within South Africa itself. In the process, we in New Zealand also learned a lot about ourselves.  The 1980s saw the search for truth and reconciliation in New Zealand itself gain momentum, leading to major settlements between the state and indigenous people which continue to this day, in acknowledgment of the historical injustices perpetrated from colonial times.

Talk to us:  What is your contribution to Nelson Mandela's legacy?

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