South African speaker toasts Mandela-Gandhi spirit
New York Daily News
New Delhi, July 10 — When freedom icon Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he was asked which country he would like to visit first. And he said it would undoubtedly be India, recalled Max Sisulu, the son of the legendary anti-apartheid activist Walter Sisulu.
Delivering the Nelson Mandela lecture in the capital Tuesday, Sisulu, who is now speaker of the South African National Assembly, evoked the special connection between the ideals of Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and stressed that the two icons continue to animate the contemporary partnership between India and South Africa.
"Mandela and Gandhi continue to be a source of inspiration for us," said Sisulu. "Mandela described Gandhi as a sacred warrior. Gandhi was both an Indian and South African citizen," added Sisulu during the lecture, organized to mark the 94th birthday celebrations of Mandela.
Recalling Mandelas choice of India as his first overseas destination after becoming president, Sisulu said the visit in 1995 laid the foundations for a solid strategic partnership between the two countries.
"India and South Africa are two great democracies with common values and convergent interests, said the 67-year-old Sisulu, whose father India honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian award, in 1998.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared Mandeal's birthday July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day. In fact, the entire month of July is celebrated as the Month of Mandela, said South Africa's High Commissioner to India H. Majeke.
Alluding to the shift of power from the West, Sisulu said India and South Africa are uniquely poised to exert influence in this fluid environment.
"We need to work together in the UN, G20 and other multilateral organizations as we have common positions on international issues," said Sisulu, who also heads the African National Congress' Economic Transformation Committee. In 1967, India became the first country to accord full diplomatic status to the ANC.
India and South Africa are currently non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and have collaborated on a range of global issues, including climate change negotiations.