Nelson Mandela's and Australia’s Deep Ties

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By Athena Yenko | December 6, 2013 3:45 PM EST

At 1657 GMT, South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the death of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela at 95 years old.

"Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed. He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20:50 on the 5th of December, 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified. Let us be mindful of his wishes and the wishes of his family. Let us commit ourselves to strive together; to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa," stated Mr Zuma during his nation address.

Meanwhile, Australia's leader recalled their relationship with Mandela and how the nation helped end the apartheid government in South Africa.

Gareth Evans, foreign minister during the Hawke Government said that Australia was one among the nations which pioneered the global campaign against apartheid. For this, Australia should be proud as a nation.

"We can be quite proud of the role that Australia played. The trade sanctions, the sports boycotts, the cultural boycotts, were psychologically important, but frankly, were not making too much impact on the regime," he said.

"What made the difference were the financial sanctions, getting the world's banks to stop the flow of capital into the country. The wheels that made the economy turn. And Australia played a hugely central role in that," Mr Evans told ABC.

He said that Australia led the banking system in Europe and America through the Commonwealth mechanism.

"At the end of the day it was that more than anything else that really put the squeeze on the regime," Mr Evans recalled.

Malcolm Fraser, 22nd Prime Minister of Australia, shared that Australia's relationship with Mandela started with one of his early visits to Mandela while the latter was still in prison.

"I can remember on one occasion he held up a blanket, and you could see through the blanket. And before any business, he looked at me - he was a formal man - and he said, 'Mr Fraser, can you tell me is Donald Bradman still alive?' And I later took a bat to Nelson Mandela when he was President: 'To Nelson Mandela, in recognition of a great unfinished innings,' signed the Don. Without doubt he is the most remarkable person I have ever met in my lifetime. I don't know anyone who has lived a life as he has, with the values that he possessed, and ended up being so successful as he was." Mr Fraser said.

As for Prime Minister Tony Abbott's part, upon the news of Mandela's death, Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio that he was a truly great man.

"Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century. He was the father of modern South Africa. 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."

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