STAFFORDSHIRE people have joined world leaders in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela.
The first black president of South Africa, Mandela passed away last night at his Johannesburg home after battling a lung infection for several months. He was 95.
Imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities, he went on to end apartheid in South Africa and in 1993 won the Nobel Peace Prize.
His struggles and aspirations for unity and equality inspired millions of people around the world, including in Stafford.
Borough councillor Rowan Draper said: “One of the abiding memories of my childhood was when South Africa won the 1995 World Cup.
“For South Africa, it not only won a trophy, but helped a nation with social justice. Nelson Mandela talked about the tremendous power to change our lives through sport, and this formed part of my inspiration for my selection speech to stand as a Labour candidate and councillor.
“He taught the world there was another way. He walked with giants. Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.”
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, described Mandela as his “personal hero”.
He said: “He could be the greatest person of the 20th century. From his Christian faith he decided not to go the way of vengeance but forgiveness.
“He schooled a whole generation of young leaders not to be bitter but to be determined to go for justice, peace and reconciliation."
Newsletter readers took to Facebook to share their tributes to Mandela.
Kathryn Anstiss said Mandela was an “unforgettable, inspirational, powerful, brave man.”
Steve O’Brien said: “He stood up to a raft of people and governments for what was right and history saw him vindicated. Thatcher and Reagan cut him adrift – shame on them.
Let it be said that he was the personification of having the courage of your own convictions – you do not necessarily have to be in the majority to hold the moral high ground. The world has lost one of the good guys.”
Josie Shelley added: His passing is a great loss to the world but as the recent Marikana massacre shows, there is still so much to be done. We must all fight against oppression and stand up for freedom and true democracy so that we can truly honour this great man’s life and legacy.”