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International Reaction to Mandela's Life and Death

Aired December 6, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: The brutal segregation of black South Africans and urged forgiveness for what the white government had done, oppressed them and imprisoned him. Today, the world is remembering an icon.



CROWD: Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: In South Africa, the grieving and mourning are mixed with songs and celebration for the man affectionately known by his clan name Madiba, the country's favorite son.

Welcome to a special edition of "AROUND THE WORLD", remembering the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company.

And it is interesting how much of a celebration it has been. There is the mourning. There were tears last night. Today it's been singing and dancing, people celebrating the life.

MALVEAUX: And he seems to have an impact on just about everyone. People around the world are reacting. We are watching live pictures here, Nelson Mandela being celebrated in the streets of Johannesburg. He died at his home in the suburbs of there in Johannesburg. And we want to bring you live to that place where the celebration, where the flags are flying, where the people are cheering. That is where we bring in our CNN's Arwa Damon.

Who, Arwa, we know this is something that for a long time we know he's been in ill health. There was certainly a scare back in June. Did this come as a surprise? And explain to us the celebration that we are seeing now, the outpouring of love.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not so much as a surprise because, as you were saying there, Nelson Mandela was incredibly ill and had taken a turn for the worse over the last few weeks. He was fighting a very aggressive lung infection. And he was 95 years old. But a lot of South Africans we're talking to are saying that even though they felt as if they had time to prepare for this, when the moment actually came to be, they found that they were not emotionally prepared for it. And many of them are trying to grapple with everything that they're going through right now.

We're just outside of his home in Johannesburg. In fact, it was in that home where he did pass away. And people have been gathering here since last night, overnight, they were showing up in their pajamas. Everyone really expressing their affection, their love for Nelson Mandela in all sorts of different ways, celebrating him in all sorts of different ways, to include a troupe of dancers that traveled overnight to come because for them and for so many others here, Nelson Mandela was larger than life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Da da, he is beloved father. And da da, he's our - he's -- da da is now god (ph) to us because he show us everything like here in South Africa, the whole world.


DAMON: And it's also been quite interesting here, speaking to the different generations. A lot of parents bringing their very young children who night not fully grasp what is happening, but still wanting them to be a part of this moment, wanting to teach them even at a very young age what Nelson Mandela was all about, the principles that he really stood up for, the sacrifices that he made for South Africa today.

A lot of college students also remembering how it was for their parents when blacks could not go to certain schools with white students, when the two the communities were completely and totally separate and now these young black students are telling us that it's simply thanks to one man, his ability to forgive, to reconcile rather than seek revenge, that now they feel as if they do have the opportunity to better themselves and better the nation.

HOLMES: Yes, Arwa, I suppose, you know, the man he was could be an object lesson to politicians in other parts of the world these days. A man of patience and reconciliation and forgiveness. You know, one thing that's ironic where you are now, that house, his house, he couldn't have lived there under apartheid. It was a whites only area. And you mentioned the use there, the so-called born feel generation, those who never lived under apartheid. Is there a sense there from the older generation that that born free generation needs to know that history?

DAMON: There most certainly is. And that's a great point that you do bring up. And just to expand on that a little bit, blacks would not have been allowed into neighborhoods like this one unless they had a specific permit from their employer that allowed them access to areas like this. And those permits were very restrictive. You would have a permit for one side of the street but you actually would not be allowed to cross into the other. That is just to give you an idea of what this situation was like.

When it comes to this younger generation, we've been speaking to a fair number of college students who were maybe one or two years old when Mandela was released from prison. They're very aware of the fact that their parents were not able to get an education. Their parents were not able to ride the same buses, use the same transport that white people did. Never mind employment opportunities.

And they do feel a sense of responsibility, they were telling us, that it is really up to them, especially at this juncture in South Africa's history, to remind South Africa's current politicians, its current government of exactly what it was that Nelson Mandela and all of the others around him sacrificed for, and that was a free, democratic, prosperous nation where people were treated with dignity. Because at the end of the day, this is still a country that is facing a lot of challenges and a lot of problems.

MALVEAUX: All right, Arwa Damon, thank you so much.

You know, I had a chance to visit South Africa in October of last year and a lot of the young people, they still feel like he is their leader, he is the father of the country.


MALVEAUX: Despite the fact there's totally new leadership, he is the one that they are most influenced by and most moved by.

HOLMES: And in the same way too, it surprises a lot of people, it shocks a lot of people, he only served one term as president.

MALVEAUX: It was very brief.

HOLMES: It was brief. And then he passed the mantle on to Thabo Mbeki and then later Jacob Zuma. But one term in office, but it helped (ph) - you know, everything he did changed that country forever. It is still, and we don't want to be tool Pollyannaish about it, that is a country that still has a lot of challenges ahead from poverty, to income inequality, to corruption and the like. But he changed it from what it was into this -- what he wanted. A rainbow society is what he wanted. It's not all there yet, though.

MALVEAUX: Yes, they are still fighting very much to get their political rights, as well.


MALVEAUX: And there's, of course, an outpouring of affection of Nelson Mandela across the world but also the United States. And we're going to take a look at here, these are some live pictures. This is the staff (ph) - oh, we don't have live pictures. I believe we're going to get them later. But this is - it would be the South African embassy. It's on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. And that is where there have been so many people who have come forward (ph), they are chanting, they are putting flowers and candles out to commemorate the - HOLMES: Yes.

MALVEAUX: What is taking place, tributes near the statute of Nelson Mandela.

HOLMES: That's right. We saw that in London, as well. There were people out there all day as well.

Robyn Curnow, our correspondent in Johannesburg, now she's done an extraordinary job since Nelson Mandela passed. She's done a - she has met the man, she has been embraced by the man, she has been covering him for years and takes a look back now at the man's life and the struggle that really defined who he was.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nelson Mandela's struggle for freedom defined his life. He was born in the remote hills of South Africa's eastern cape. He was given the name Rolihlahla, which means "troublemaker." He was only given the name Nelson by a school teacher later on.

After moving to Johannesburg and studying law, Mandela's trouble- making politics began. And as a boxer he became adept at picking fights and sparring with the apartheid authorities, which had increased its oppression against the black population. It was then that Mandela made the crucial decision to take up an arms struggle, launching the African National Congress' armed wing. He was militant and a fire brand, defiantly burning his passbook, a dreaded document the apartheid authorities used to control the movement of South Africa's black population.

NELSON MANDELA, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: The Africans require want the franchise on the basis of one man, one vote. They want political independence.

CURNOW: That simple demand and the methods Mandela took to fight for democracy eventually saw him and others tried for treason and sabotage by the apartheid government, acts punishable by death. But they got life imprisonment instead, banished to Robben Island, one of the country's most brutal and isolated prisons. Another political prisoner, Mac Maharaj, remembers the first time he saw Mandela in the prison yard.

MAC MAHARAJ, FORMER POLITICAL PRISONER: I could see from the way he walked and from his conduct that here was a man already stamping his authority on prison regime.

CURNOW: Mandela was released 27 years later.

MANDELA: I have spoken about freedom in my lifetime. Your struggle, your commitment, and your discipline has released me to stand before you today.

CURNOW: And his lack of bitterness towards the apartheid authorities helped him to lead one of the most remarkable political transitions of the 20th century. Mandela, the trained lawyer and lifelong rebel, out maneuvered the apartheid leaders and he steered South Africa's peaceful transition to democracy.

He won a Nobel Peace Prize, together with his former enemy, the apartheid leader F.W. de Klerk.

MANDELA: I will devote myself to the well-being of the republic and all its people.

CURNOW: And then he became South Africa's first black president in 1994.

MANDELA: So help me God.

MARTIN MEREDITH, MANDELA BIOGRAPHER: What marks Mandela's career as president more - almost more than anything else is that after five years he stepped down. There have been very few presidents in Africa who've ever given up willingly.

MANDELA: Don't call me. I'll call you.

CURNOW: His retirement years were busy with fund-raising for charities close to his heart. He celebrated his 90th birthday with much fanfare and told CNN in a rare interview that looking back he wouldn't do anything differently.

MANDELA: I don't regret it because the things that attracted me were things that pleased my soul.

CURNOW: Now those who loved and respected him look to his legacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if we want to learn from him, learn that life is not made up of straight victories. It's made up of mistakes, zig- zags, stumbling, picking yourself up, and dusting off the dirt, treating the bruise, and walking again forward. And that's what Mandela is.

MANDELA: Good-bye.

CURNOW: Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


MALVEAUX: Just a magical moment when you see a smile and the dance there. I had a couple opportunities to meet him.


MALVEAUX: Just extraordinary, kind of the life inside of him, the lessons learned really.

HOLMES: The warmth.

MALVEAUX: Yes, absolutely.

HOLMES: Apparently a bit of a flirt too. MALVEAUX: Yes, he was.

HOLMES: A ladies man. Yes.

Now in the final years of his life, as we know, he hasn't been well for some time and secret plans were hammered out, they involved the government, the military even, and also Mandela's family, about what to do, preparing a fitting farewell for this great man.

MALVEAUX: Even the current South African president, Jacob Zuma, announcing the funeral plans for Mandela today, including a national day of prayer and reflection this Sunday. There's also going to be an open air memorial service at Johannesburg soccer stadium. That's happening next Tuesday. His burial is set for December 15th.

HOLMES: And that burial area is in his hometown, Qunu. It's been especially built for him. Some of Mandela's long deceased family members are already buried there at that site. And that's where he wanted to be buried.

MALVEAUX: And we want you to see this. This is Nelson Mandela's Twitter account sending out inspiring quotes from him. We'd like to share a few of these, letters from Robben Island prison and the speeches throughout his life. He says, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it."

HOLMES: He also said, "do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."

MALVEAUX: "Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated and passionate about what they do."

HOLMES: Some good advice there.

Here's more of what we are working on this hour for "AROUND THE WORLD".

Mandela spent years, of course, in South Africa's notorious Robben Island prison. That is a hard place to be. He was beaten, but never broken.

MALVEAUX: Hear why he sacrificed himself to end the terrible system of racial segregation and humiliation.



MANDELA: Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.

Our daily dues as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: That distinctive voice and those words that resonate to the this day.

Nelson Mandela, of course, spent 27 years of his life in prison, much of that time in notoriously brutal conditions, a place called Robben Island off the coast of South Africa.

MALVEAUX: Few can recount the horror that Mandela and other prisoners endured their time there.

One of Mandela's fellow inmates talked to CNN about his time in prison alongside Mandela.


KHEHLA SHUBANE, FORMER ROBBEN ISLAND PRISONER: I didn't think it would ever happen. I thought the generation of prisoners who were there with Mr. Mandela would simply not see a free South Africa.

And those who of us who were in our 20s at the time, I thought by the time change came in South Africa we would be pretty old and wouldn't be able to make a contribution to a democratic South Africa.


MALVEAUX: Nelson Mandela spent 18 years behind those walls. He was confined to a very tiny cell. The floor served as his bed and a bucket was his toilet.

HOLMES: He was forced to do hard labor, actually literally breaking rocks. He was only allowed one visitor a year, and that was for 30 minutes.

This was usually his then wife Winnie Mandela, familiar to many. And they weren't allowed to even touch. He was only allowed two letters a year from his family.

MALVEAUX: President Obama and his family toured Robben Island during their first visit to South Africa. That was in June.

Word of Nelson Mandela's death spread quickly across the world and the United States, of course. And for many Americans, the death of Mandela was like losing one of his own.

MALVEAUX: President Obama met the leader back in 2005 and he and the first lady visited South Africa in June, but they were unable to meet with Mandela due to his failing health.

The president paid tribute to the fallen icon counting himself among the millions influenced by Mandela.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in Andrew Young, civil rights leader and former ambassador to the United Nations, welcome, as well as James Joseph, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and Duke University professor, both who knew Nelson Mandela very well on a personal level.

Ambassador, I'd like to start off with you, because you met him on many occasions. And you draw parallels.

You talk about how this was so important, so significant in some ways to the civil rights movement and the struggle at the time.

For us, I was just a college student when we had a lot of those divest from shantytowns in the yards of the campuses that participated in that.

But tell us the connections you had with the civil rights movement.

ANDREW YOUNG, CHAIRMAN, ANDREW J. YOUNG FOUNDATION: We understood that, as Dr. King said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

And so we knew of Chief Albert Lutuli and the African National Congress. We entertained Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki when they were in exile.

But my first real conflict was, I went to -- actually went to South Africa with Arthur Ashe in 1974 to play tennis. And we tried to see Mandela and didn't, but we did see Robert Sobukwe who had just gotten out of jail.

And we came back and we started the sanctions movement in the Congress. And the first two, I remember Bill Gray and I were working on this bill, and we didn't want it to be a Black Caucus bill, so we went to Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, who were Republicans who said they were conservative, but not racists.

And we said this is a good chance for you to put your names on something that is conservative. Democracy and free enterprise is what we're advocating. They were the first two to sign. And then everybody signed up.

HOLMES: But there was opposition too, wasn't there?

YONG: There was plenty of opposition, but the opposition was balanced out by Nigeria, because Nigeria was the leading trading partner with Great Britain.

And when President Obasanjo found that Nigerian oil was going to South Africa, he cut off oil to Britain and canceled over $2 billion worth of British contracts.

Then Margaret Thatcher sent Lord Carrington down to meet with him. They formed that committee of esteemed persons that ended up completing the negotiations, and I think it was one of the finest hours of the Commonwealth --


YOUNG: -- and the U.S. Congress.

HOLMES: People had to be talked --

YOUNG: The Congress had to override a veto.

HOLMES: That's right.

MALVEAUX: And it was a long fight coming

HOLMES: Even Thatcher was opposed initially and turned around, too.

Let's bring in Ambassador Joseph into the conversation. You were ambassador from '95 to '99 I believe. That was a critical time there.

What are your thoughts back at that time, the witness to the signing of the constitution, just such a historic day in that country.

JAMES A. JOSEPH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH AFRICA: Well, I was first an activist, then I ended up being a diplomat, but you make reference to the signing of the constitution.

I was in Sharpeville when Nelson Mandela signed the constitution. I was sitting right behind former President de Klerk and wondering what he was thinking.

But as far as my own thoughts, I was of thinking about how many times we used the slogan, "Remember Sharpeville," because more than 60 people had been murdered there. And then it suddenly occurred to me that if Nelson Mandela could forgive his oppressors, then who am I to sit there and not forgive?

HOLMES: Did you find that he was somebody who, and other people have said this, that he was somebody who recognized, studied, those who opposed him, the enemy, if you like, for want of a better word, studied them, but respected them and showed that respect and, in many ways, sort of neutralized their power against him? Is that a fair statement?

JOSEPH: Oh, yes. He had a very winning personality, a seductive smile, an intimate handshake, which made you feel like you had known him for a long time.

But one of the things that struck me and still does is that he knew his adversaries' history and culture as well as he knew his own. By demonstrating respect for their humanity, they in turn respected his humanity.

MALVEAUX: Ambassador Joseph, thank you very much.

Ambassador Young, if you will, wrap this for us and give us a sense of the last time that you saw Mandela. What really struck you? I know he was ill, but what struck you about that meeting? YOUNG: The last time that I saw him was actually at the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma. And it was a passing on of the torch, first to Thabo Mbeki, then to Jacob Zuma. But he was still the moral force that will held that country together and he still is and will continue to be.

HOLMES: And we are almost out of time, but I've got to throw this in, too, because you knew the Mandela days.

There's been a lot of disappointment in Thabo Mbeki and also Jacob Zuma on different levels, management and also personality-wise. Do you think that Nelson Mandela would have been happy with the country he's left behind now?

YOUNG: No, he would never be happy until the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and the sick are healed.

HOLMES: There's a lot to be done.

YOUNG: But they started out with a nation where 85 percent of the people were discriminated against. They're probably now down to 70 percent of the people who are still in poverty.

But we have in this nation probably 30 percent of the people who are still in poverty.

HOLMES: OK, yeah.

YOUNG: So we've got a long way to go.


MALVEAUX: All right, Andrew Young, Ambassador Young, thank you so much -

HOLMES: Great insights.

MALVEAUX: -- for your time.

HOLMES: Fascinating

MALVEAUX: And other world leaders have been inspired by Mandela's ability to forgive his enemies, a man who chose reconciliation retribution when he took power.


TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As a leader, he was just a huge inspiration. I remember when we started our own peace process in Northern Ireland, he was such an example for reconciliation, forgiveness, the ability to put the past behind you.


HOLMES: We're going to take a look at the reaction to Mandela's death from around the globe, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)