Nelson Mandela: Caribbean Friend on the verge…

| June 28, 2013
Kieran Etoria-King

Kieran Etoria-King, Social Commentator

South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela has spent the last few weeks in hospital suffering from a lung infection, and according to sad reports emerging from the country, his  condition is critical and appears to be teetering on the balance.

The 94-year-old, who served 27 years in prison for opposing the Apartheid government, became a symbol of the worldwide pressure which mounted on South Africa’s segregated institution.

During the 1970’s and 80’s, several economic sanctions were placed on the country, and many sporting federations including FIFA, the International Olympic Committee and the International Cricket Court banned South Africa’s teams from competing in their tournaments in protest. This was around the time the West Indies Cricket team were in their element. The UN even compiled an unofficial, but very public, blacklist of worldwide sports players who had competed against or in South Africa.

Nelson Mandel

Nelson Mandel in his cell on Robin Island. Photo courtesy

Mandela, like many civil rights campaigners, has cited Jamaican leader Marcus Garvey as one of his inspirations, but the relationship between his historic story and the small Caribbean island goes much further than this.

Even before his imprisonment had drawn the world’s attention, Jamaica had become the first country to enact a boycott of any kind on South Africa. In 1957, several years before Mandela’s arrest, the small island showed its support for his and the ANC’s cause by announcing a trade embargo, despite still being a British colony. This brought the issue to international attention.

Indeed, for such a small country, Jamaica was an outspoken opponent of the South African government.

It was among the countries who fought to bring the issue of segregation in South African sport to the attention of the UN in the first place.

Jamaica and other Caricom nations even offered scholarships for South African students to attend the University of the West Indies.

In 1978, Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley was awarded the UN Gold Medal for Distinguished Service in the fight against Apartheid, and in 1985 another Jamaican PM, Edward Seaga, spoke about the tactical importance of weakening the South African currency in his address to the UN’s 40th anniversary session. Jamaica news networks reported this widely.

Nelson Mandela

Former Soutj African President Nelson Mandela. Photo courtesy

According to Mandela’s daughter, he is currently able to respond to touch and is trying to open his eyes, but is unable to breathe without the assistance of a life support machine.

On Thursday night the BBC reported that his condition had improved slightly, but sadly at 94, it does appear that ‘Madiba’, as he is affectionately known in his homeland, may be approaching the final days of his inspirational and remarkable time on this realm.

If and when that day does come; the civil rights movement of the 20th century will lose its last surviving icon, South Africa will lose a hero and a father, and the island of Jamaica will lose a dear friend.

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