The death of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela is a tremendous loss, not only for South Africa, but also for the world, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week.
“Mandela’s life epitomised the fight for freedom, equality, and justice, all core human rights ideals,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement.
“His death reminds us of the uniqueness of his principled and dignified leadership, both in Africa and beyond.”
However, while Roth hailed the ‘world’s greatest man’, he has slammed the new South Africa, saying that almost two decades into its democracy, South Africa was not the country that Mandela had said he hoped it would become.
“Inequality and poverty remain rife, the education and health sectors are inadequate, and the country remains divided by racial separation and deep economic inequality,” he said.
Some observers may say that Roth has a point given the fact that the ruling party’s internal power struggles seem to be driving Africa’s biggest economy into a labyrinth of prostitution of politics and demagogy.
Human rights activists also believe that the country’s controversial Protection of Information legislation also seems to put a dent on the country’s freedom of expression and media liberties – ‘extraordinary’ values the late president fought for almost all his life.
Therefore, Roth urged the country’s next generation of leaders to do well to live up to Mandela’s high standards and fervent commitment to human rights.
“Mandela led South Africa out of darkness and brutality,” Roth said.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” Roth said, quoting the late president’s statement at the 1964 famous Rivonia trial.
Mandela and 156 other ANC members were tried and subsequently convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison.