MPs pay tribute to Mandela

Bill English
Bill English
MPs have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela in Parliament this afternoon, describing him as a positive force for change in New Zealand and across the world.

Before question time, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English moved that the House express its sorrow for the passing of Mandela, who died on Friday aged 95.

Mr English said that during his life, Mandela made a remarkable transition from supporting an armed struggle against apartheid to winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

He paid special attention to Mandela's legacy of forgiveness and inclusiveness despite his 27 years in jail.

"On his release he exhibited an inspiring ability to put his own his sacrifices and hardship behind him. When he could have chosen bitterness and revenge, he chose instead forgiveness and reconciliation."

Mr English said Mandela's character allowed him to transcend the economic and political tensions of post-apartheid South Africa.

When he met the then-President Mandela in 1995, "we all experienced his incredible ability to make you feel as if the privilege of meeting was all his"

Mr English emphasised the importance of New Zealand's protests during South Africa's apartheid struggle - Mandela's death was an opportunity "to acknowledge those New Zealanders that have proved to have been right".

"The conflict that occurred in New Zealand over sporting contact with South Africa was, as those New Zealanders asserted at the time, about more than a right to watch sport."

He added: "Nelson Mandela's passing will cast a long shadow but his place in history is unassailable."

Labour deputy leader David Parker described Mandela as "one of the world's greatest leaders, certainly in my life time".

"It is hard to imagine a more worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize, a honour which ... was properly accorded him in 1993."

Mr Parker said "only a giant" could endure 27 years in prison and then seek reconciliation instead of revenge on his release.

"Through the decades of his incarceration, the black and coloured majority were subjugated... second class citizens in their own land.... Mandela's indomitable spirit was in inspiration not just to millions in South Africa but billions around the world."

He noted that his party, led by Norman Kirk at the time, fought against apartheid by supporting economic sanctions and opposing sporting contact.

Mr Parker said it was unlikely that Mandela would care for "fine words" after his death, and the best way to pay respect was with action, in particular on eradicating poverty.

Green MP Kevin Hague, who took part in protests against the rugby tours, said the portrayal of Mandela as an "anodyne, twinkly-eyed grandfather'' was misleading.

"He was a gracious man, considerate to all those he interacted with, possessing a disarming sense of humour ... but under the velvet there was steel.

"Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter. A man of courage, determination, and uncompromising integrity.''

He stressed that if anything bound New Zealand to Mandela, it was the actions of anti-apartheid protesters.

"I stand here on behalf not only of the Green Party but with a sense of those hundreds of thousands [of protestors] standing with me, shoulder to shoulder, arms linked, to wish you well Nelson Mandela on your voyage to the stars.''

- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

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