Australian Prime Ministers Remember Nelson Mandela

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By Anne Lu | December 6, 2013 6:10 PM EST

Nelson Mandela wasn’t just a South African president; he was also the personified symbol of racial equality and hope all over the world. And with the passing of this great man, Australian leaders have offered their message of mourning.

When former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser visited Mr Mandela in jail in the ‘80s, the South African leader had some important things to say, but perhaps the most pressing at that time was his concern for Australian cricketer Donald “The Don” Bradman.

“Mr Fraser, is Donald Bradman still alive?” the former Aussie leader recalled Mr Mandela asking him.

He was able to give Mr Mandela a bat signed by the cricketer later, which read, “To Nelson Mandela, in recognition of a great unfinished innings.”

That wasn’t all what the former PM remembers of the beloved leader, though. He also remembers the other man as having a sense of charity to everyone and a sense of humour.

He wrote on The Age, “His sense of forgiveness and of justice was immense. His sense of quity was absolute. For Mandela politics was a matter of high principle and of steadfast purpose. He did not need polls or focus groups. He knew what was right, he knew what had to be done. If it was a difficult issue, if it needed persuasion, he would argue the harder, marshal his point of view and win the day.”

Mr Fraser concluded, “Now South Africa grieves, as does the whole world. We need to remember his achievements and his essential character, which made those achievements possible. We can learn from his example. He leaves a legacy that all subsequent leaders should seek to emulate.”

Incumbent PM Tony Abbott, on the other hand, calls Mr Mandela as a “moral leader” more than a political one.

“He spent his life standing against the injustice of apartheid,” he said in a statement. “When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country.

“While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives.

“On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian community, I extend my condolences to Mr Mandela’s family and to the people of South Africa.”

As for Mr Abbott’s predecessors, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, they grieve the passing of a great man.

Other former PMs have also released their statement on Mr Mandela’s death.

“Nelson Mandela’s warm personality endeared him not only to his own people, but to millions around the world,” John Howard said, adding that the fallen leader “set a great example to the people of South Africa, who can best honour his legacy by working to ensure that the new South Africa he strove so hard to create is preserved and strengthened.”

Paul Keating, meanwhile, believes that the leader was a “font of kindness,” saying, “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.”

Bob Hawke called Mr Mandela’s self-sacrifice for political freedom for South Africans was “unparalleled” in his time.

Mr Mandela died on December 5 at the age of 95 in his home in Johannesburg.

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