Portraits of Six Exceptional Twentieth Century Premiers
Chapter 7 The Global Icon: Nelson Mandela of South Africa (1994–1999) 251
CHAPTER SEVEN The Global Icon: Nelson Mandela of South Africa (1994–1999) If one were asked to identify the single most venerated iconic, global figure of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the name of Nelson Mandela would surely spring to mind. As Kofi Annan, UN Secre- tary-General at the time, stated a few years ago, ‘[t]o this day, Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] remains prob- ably the single most admired, most respected international figure in the entire world’.1 On the occasion of Mandela’s ninetieth birthday in July 2008 Time magazine honoured him with its cover photo and lead story. The writer of the story described Mandela as ‘the closest thing the world has to a secular saint’, and as ‘a living deity’.2 Nobel Prize-winning cleric, Desmond Tutu, has called Mandela ‘a global icon for peace, love, reconciliation and magnanimity’.3 Nobel Prize-winning writer, Nadine Gordimer, has compared him to another twentieth-century icon: ‘Gandhi 1 Kofi Annan, ‘Foreword’, in Mac Maharaj, Ahmed Kathrada & Kate Parkin (eds), Mandela: The Authorised Portrait (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 5. 2 Time, 21 July 2008, pp. 23, 24. 3 D. Tutu, ‘Foreword’, in Xolela Mangcu (ed.), The Meaning of Mandela (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2006), p. viii. 252 CHAPTER SEVEN and Mandela, the two indisputably magnificent great people of the last millennium, are unique in their credible moral and humanistic stand’.4 Others have showered similar accolades upon him. And the venera- tion has gained expression in many more ways: the Nobel Peace Prize, won jointly...
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