Leading figures across the city have joined with the public in paying their respects to the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela, who died last week in Johannesburg at the age of 95.
Speaking after he signed the Book of Condolence, Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby paid tribute, saying: “We can see in him somebody who was an inspiration in his own time, but who will also be an inspiration for generations to come.”
Leicester and Nelson Mandela have a history that goes back many years. The city was a major centre of protest against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, right from the early days of the movement. The call for Mandela to be set free culminated with the opening of Nelson Mandela Park in 1986. At its entrance stands a sign with one of Mandela’s most famous quotes, that “there is no easy walk to freedom.”
Speaking outside Leicester Town Hall, Deputy Mayor Rory Palmer also paid tribute to the legacy and link that Mandela had with the city.
“Leicester does have a strong relationship with a figure such as Nelson Mandela who meant so much to people who believe in genuine equality.”
From his earliest struggles against the Apartheid regime of South Africa to his incarceration in Robben Island for 18 years of a 27 year sentence, Mandela remained steadfast in his vision for a united, democratic South Africa based on freedom and equality for all whether black or white.
His courage and tenacity culminated in him becoming the president of South Africa in 1994 after the country’s first ever fully democratic election. Having left office after serving just one term, he then became a world statesman, focusing on many important issues, such as the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS .
Books of condolence are open all this week at Leicester Town Hall and Leicester Cathedral so that members of the public can pay their own personal tributes.