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Putin calls Mandela “great humanist” of century

December 10, 2013, 1:11 UTC+3 MOSCOW
President visited the South African Embassy in Moscow to sign the book of condolence
1 pages in this article
© EPA/ANDY RAIN

MOSCOW, December 09, 23:41 /ITAR-TASS/. President Vladimir Putin said South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela was a “great humanist of the 21st century” and said his policy should become an example to follow.

Putin visited the South African Embassy in Moscow late on Monday, December 9, to sign the book of condolence.

“Courageous and wise, Nelson Mandela always fought consistently for his convictions but remained a great humanist and pacemaker. This approach is needed in today’s world: the search for compromises is the best basis for consensus and cooperation,” the president wrote in the book and expressed condolences on behalf of the people of Russia and himself.

Having signed the book, Putin bowed his head in front of Mandela’s portrait and offered condolences to South African Ambassador Mandisi Mpahlwa.

Putin stressed that Mandela “is undoubtedly one of the outstanding world figures in the 20th and 21st centuries, and his magnitude compares to that of Mahatma Gandhi and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.”

In his message of condolences earlier Putin said that Nelson Mandela’s name was inextricably linked with a whole era in Africa’s modern history that ended with the victory over apartheid and the establishment of a democratic Republic of South Africa. The president noted that Mandela traversed great hardships and trials, but remained true to the noble ideals of humanism and justice right to the end.

Putin praised Mandela’s efforts to develop friendly relations between Russia and South Africa, which have now reached the strategic partnership level.

The president sent a message of condolences to President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, expressing his sympathy and support for Mandela’s family and friends, and South Africa’s government and entire people.

Mandela “was a friend of our people,” Putin told Mpahlwa.

The president noted that the Soviet Union “supported most actively African countries’ struggle against racial segregation and for justice and democracy. Since then a special, very warm and trusting relationship has developed between our people.” Mandela’s visit to Russia in 1999 gave a boost to this relationship.

Putin recalled that a declaration of strategic partnership between the two countries had been signed during his visit to South Africa in March 2013. “We will develop our relations with South Africa in this key. South Africa is one of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa] countries and we are creating all conditions for cooperation,” the president said.

Mandela died at the age of 95 in his home outside Johannesburg on Thursday, December 5. “He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013,” South African President Jacob Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

Zuma paid tribute to Mandela’s “tireless struggle” for freedom that had earned him the respect of the world. “His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude,” he said. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free.”

The president said Mandela would be accorded a state funeral and ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half-mast from December 6 and to remain at half-mast until after the funeral.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mandela was taken to hospital on June 8 with a lung infection, which could be an echo of the tuberculosis he had suffered from during his 27-year imprisonment. He left the hospital on September 1.

Mandela made his last public appearance at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and a year later became South Africa’s first black president. He held office until 1999.

The official memorial service for Mandela will take place at Johannesburg’s 94,000-seat stadium on December 10.

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