News National Australian politicial leaders mourn Mandela
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Australian politicial leaders mourn Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela in later life. Getty
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Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa and of the last century, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

The 95-year-old anti-apartheid icon who became South Africa’s first black president died on Thursday night.

“Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century,” Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio.

He was the father of modern South Africa, he said.

“A truly great man.

“And while I never met him I did read that book A Long Walk To Freedom and I guess the impression we get of Nelson Mandela is someone who suffered but was not embittered but ennobled through that suffering.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Mr Mandela was “unarguably one of the greatest global figures of our time”.

“Today we have lost a light of our world,” he said in a joint statement with opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek.

In fractious and troubled times, Mr Mandela led his nation out of the dark age of apartheid – not with a violent struggle, but with peace, compassion and a force of moral leadership.

“He achieved perhaps more than any other leader in his pursuit of peace, acceptance and justice.”

Former prime minister Julia Gillard said the world had lost a great man. “As we grieve for Nelson Mandela we should also celebrate his tremendous victory over prejudice and hate,” she tweeted on Friday, shortly after his death in Johannesburg was announced.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating said Mr Mandela’s life was “informed by charity”.

“He was a font of kindness, replete with universal understandings, in a harsh and racially divided country.

“He brought unity and peace to South Africa through his own goodness. And, became a beacon not only to Southern Africa but to the whole world.”

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said Mr Mandela’s long campaign and self-sacrifice for political freedom for his people in South Africa was unparalleled in the 20th century. 

“Nelson Mandela was one of the most remarkable leaders I have ever met and truly embodied the ideal of the brotherhood of man. 

“His courage and character has been an inspiration to many, both within and beyond South Africa.”

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne also paid tribute to the former South African leader. “He was one of the most inspiring, courageous and humble leaders of the 20th Century,” she said in a tweet.

Former foreign minister Gareth Evans said Mr Mandela was the “simply the most impressive, decent human being” he had ever met or was ever likely to meet.

“He was an absolutely inspirational figure,” he told ABC radio in Canberra.

Without Mr Mandela’s “towering political and moral” leadership, the transition in South Africa would have been “long and ugly and bloody beyond measure”.

Mr Mandela proved a single person can change the world no matter how bleak their situation, World Vision Australia chief Tim Costello said.

Mr Costello said a “beacon of justice” had been lost. “Everyone believed it impossible for South Africa to break from apartheid without bloodshed … yet after years of struggle Mandela led his people from oppression to equality, and his nation from shame to dignity,” Mr Costello said in a statement on Friday.

 

“This man’s ability to forgive, and to reach out to whites after decades of black oppression was a miracle in our lifetime.”

He said Mr Mandela, who was incarcerated in the notorious Robben Island prison for 18 years, proved “the darkest place, depending on your response, can be a place of light and learning”.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser says there will be an overwhelming sadness in South Africa as its people realise they are finally without Nelson Mandela.

The former South African president and freedom fighter was a pragmatist whose sense of justice, determination and pragmatism healed a country torn apart by apartheid.

“If there was ever going to be some sense of unity in South Africa, there had to be a sense of forgiveness, there could certainly be no sense of vengeance,” Mr Fraser told the ABC.

“There will be sadness throughout south Africa, the recognition that they are finally without Mandela.

“I believe they will fight for his ideals even more strongly than in the past.”

Recalling his first meeting with Mr Mandela in 1986, Mr Fraser said his first question was about cricket.

“His first remark to me was, after hello, was … Mr Fraser is Donald Bradman still alive?

Mr Fraser later brought him a bat signed by The Don “in recognition of a great unfinished innings.”

Mr Fraser, who first met Mr Mandela in Cape Town’s Pollsmoor jail, said he left a legacy that all subsequent leaders should seek to emulate.

“His sense of forgiveness and of justice was immense,” he wrote in Fairfax Media.

Respect, concern, compassion a belief in the best of our natures as human beings was central to the way Mr Mandela approached every problem.

“He knew government was about the exercise of judgment, but judgment based on a basic respect for people who would understand if a good argument was put to them,” he said.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce said no person in our lifetime had been more admired and respected than Mr Mandela.

“He inspired us all by his leadership and enduring commitment to the recognition of the worth of every human being,” she said in a statement.

The freedom and reconciliation that followed years of injustice and struggle would continue to capture the imagination of people everywhere.

Ms Bryce last met Mr Mandela in 2009 while visiting South Africa.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described Mr Mandela as unarguably one of the greatest global figures of our time.

“Today we have lost a light of our world,” he said in a joint statement with opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek.

In fractious and troubled times, Mr Mandela led his nation out of the dark age of apartheid – not with a violent struggle, but with peace, compassion and a force of moral leadership.

“He achieved perhaps more than any other leader in his pursuit of peace, acceptance and justice.”

More federal politicians this morning paid tribute to Mr Mandela on social media including Opposition leader Bill Shorten who said “we have lost a light of our world”.

 

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “a light just went out across the world with the passing of Mandela”.

 

More MPs paid their own personal tributes to “one of the greatest men who ever lived”.