In the canon of human conscience Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is surely the most famously revered in the contemporary world. In the 20th Century he was one of the few who, in contrast with those who made it infamous for fascism, racism, dictatorship and war, marked the era as one that achieved some human advancement. That is the context in which his name will live in history, beyond the new millennium. Nelson Mandela belongs to the world.
We South Africans, who are fortunate enough to have him living with us in the present, feel he belongs to us and above all we belong to him, if on other and different levels of experience.
There are those who knew him in childhood at his home, the Transkei, and see, beneath the beautifully aged face formed by extraordinary experiences of Underground existence, long imprisonment, the soft contours of a lively youth soon to be aware of ominous demanding responsibilities calling within him beyond a personal appetite for life.
There are those – like George Bizos- who knew him as a fellow student with whom they shared food when he, as a black man, could not enter even a humble restaurant and as a young lawyer whose very presence in court was resented and challenged by white presiding magistrates. There are those who remember him practicising with great Oliver Tambo as the legal firm ‘Mandela & Tambo’ in an old building in Johannesburg.