Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Unlike Thatcher Mandela earned his state funeral

DURING my Merchant Navy career with Cunard between 1966 and 1979, my ships called at numerous ports in South Africa.

The proud, friendly, downtrodden black majority had few rights in their own country. I recall visiting a popular whites-only hotel bar in Durban with fellow officers.

It was general election time and both the main local candidates and their supporters were shouting at each other across the bar.

President Botha's Nationalist candidate repeatedly used the same derogatory term ("black b******s") in front of the black bar staff, who showed no reaction at all.

I do not possess the ability to forgive the South African political class, who inflicted apartheid on a whole race, in the incredible way Nelson Mandela was able to.

He once wrote: "I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. I sought always to defeat my opponents without dishonouring them."

I feel deep shame that our leaders, especially Margaret Thatcher, lifted hardly a finger to shorten the 27 long years of incarceration this man tolerated with such dignity. Unlike her, he truly earned the state farewell he received and his rightful place in history.

KEN CALLANAN

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