AAYMCA Statement: Farewell son of Africa

The Africa Alliance of YMCAs today are united in grief as we mourn the loss of a true African visionary, former South African President, Rolihlahla “Nelson” Mandela.

As a young boxer, Mandela would frequently train at his local Soweto YMCA. During this time the centre was frequently used for ANC political meetings, serving as a safe place for discussions which would ultimately shape Mandela’s young mind, and South Africa’s future. 

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Decades later, his influence is still felt within those historic walls as youth continue to visit the centre and shape their own thinking and development.

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Mandela led South Africa through her greatest challenge, ensuring that the revolutionary end to institutionalised discrimination and repression, Apartheid, was met with relatively little conflict and welcomed with a determined spirit of peace and reconciliation.

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While the world will feel the loss of such a remarkable man, Africans have lost a leader who steadfastly worked to prove that the continent is capable of peaceful conflict resolution through leadership that aspires to moral honesty, tolerance and acceptance.

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Born on 18 July, 1918, to the Madiba clan of Mvezo in the Transkei, Mandela spent much of his life striving to educate himself and standing in political opposition to an unjust system. His stand against seemingly insurmountable prejudice is a cause for which he sacrificed much in the face of great threat to his life and freedom. Following a conviction for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, Mandela spent 27 years in prison, but throughout this time maintained a strong loyalty to peaceful resistance and the unconditional repealing of the Apartheid system.

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Following his release in 1990, Mandela guided South Africa through her first democratic elections and stepped in as South Africa’s first African statesman when he shouldered the presidency in 1994. Perhaps his most significant contribution to African politics is the implementation of South Africa’s first constitution which is perceived world-wide as one of the most forward thinking constitutions in global governance today.

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Since then, Mandela has received more than 250 awards, many for his humanitarian work, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin. His work has been internationally recognised through his awarding of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize which he shares with former Apartheid president F.W. de Klerk.

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The contribution Mandela played in African politics will forever stretch far beyond the current South African landscape. His legacy to Africa is true leadership that is both thoughtful and honest but does not prize retribution and corruption. Mandela ensured that the African Renaissance has a framework for peaceful conflict resolution and that in all things, human rights becomes a principle of long-lasting social evolution.

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We mourn together as Africans, in much the same way that we celebrated together the achievements that Madiba brought through his actions. We are a better continent today through his determination, sacrifice and unflinching faith in an Africa capable of peaceful change.

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Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

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Mandela is survived by his wife, Graca Machel, 3 children, Pumla Makaziwe Mandela, Zenani Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela, 17 grand-children and 14 great-grandchildren.

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Our thoughts also go to the extended family of his late former wife Evelyn Mase and his former wife Winnie Madikizela.

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As we mourn our deep loss, let us pledge to ensure that Mandela’s legacy lives through us and that our children are able to fully appreciate the freedoms he and his peers fought so hard to attain.

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Carlos Sanvee, AAYMCA General Secretary

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Sipho Sokhela, South Africa YMCA National General Secretary

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The Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA) is a leading pan African youth development network on the continent, representing national movements in 20 countries, 16 of which are very active. The first YMCA in Africa was established in Liberia in 1881, and the AAYMCA was founded in 1977 as the umbrella body for all national movements on the continent. www.africaymca.org or https://www.facebook.com/AfricaYMCA