Cape Town, South Africa – It is with great sadness that the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) heard of the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon and first President of the new South Africa. Yet, we are heartened by the strength of his legacy: the championing of freedom, peace and equality. Mr. Mandela’s struggle for South Africa, and the world, will not be forgotten.
The life and work of Mr. Mandela has continually inspired AWEPA since its establishment in 1984. The organisation’s roots lie in the campaign for the eradication of apartheid, for the equality and freedom of all people. During the heights of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, a few West European politicians formed separate wings in their parliaments to campaign for the abolition of apartheid via effective legislation, policies and laws, and to create international pressure to release Mr. Mandela from prison.
This new parliamentary coalition led to the birth of the ‘Association of West-European Parliamentarians for Action against Apartheid’ (AWEPAA), now AWEPA. The organisation was created to unconditionally support the liberation movement of the South Africans. This was noted by Mr. Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC), who appreciated AWEPA’s efforts for parliamentary coalition, the first of its kind in terms of objectives, scale and success.
In 1990, when Mandela visited the European Parliament after his release from prison, he met with AWEPA members and encouraged them to continue their work to help strengthen democracy in Africa. His encouragement came at a time when AWEPA was considering its purpose fulfilled. The meeting with the man who would in four years become the first non-white President of his country, proved to be a catalyst for AWEPA’s future work in other parts of the continent.
A strong relationship developed with him, thanks, among others, to AWEPA’s Eminent Advisory Board members Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ms. Graça Machel, who is also Mr. Mandela’s wife. The President of AWEPA, Ms. Miet Smet, had an important tête-à-tête in Johannesburg on Monday 2 December with Ms. Machel, together with Ms. Jessica Longwe, AWEPA’s Director of Partner Relations. They spoke about the upcoming 30th anniversary of AWEPA, in which Mrs. Machel will play a role.
AWEPA’s thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Mr. Mandela’s wife, Chairperson of our Eminent Advisory Board, Graça Machel. We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the rest of Mr. Mandela’s family and all those who hold him dear.
AWEPA shall continue to honour him by going forward with determination in its mandate.