As the world mourns, gay groups have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela – the man who became the father of his nation and gave hope to LGBT Africa.
Less than an hour after his death, South Africans are still in shock at the passing of the man who led them to freedom.
But LGBT leaders from the country who spoke to Gay Star News wanted to pay tribute to a hero who taught the world that love would triumph over hate.
The 95-year-old apartheid revolutionary passed away from a lung infection today (5 December)
While best known for his work in race equality as South Africa’s first black president, he also created the Rainbow Nation – a country where gay rights and marriage equality was enshrined in the constitution.
In his book Long Walk To Freedom, Mandela says: ‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’
Imprisoned for 27 years, he cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all people live together in harmony with equal opportunities.
In 1964, during the Rivonia trial, he said: ‘It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realized. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’
Junior Mayema, an activist from People Against Suffering Opression and Poverty (PASSOP), described Mandela as a ‘hero’.
Speaking to Gay Star News, he said: ‘Nelson Mandela changed South Africa from Apartheid nation to the Rainbow nation, where every human being living in this country must be free and equal in rights and dignity.
‘He did a lot for the LGBT community by making sure that gay rights are enshrined in the South African constitution more than any other president before him or after him.’
Mayema added: ‘A hero like him is very rare in this world, appearing once in an era.
‘I hope the next South African presidents will keep ruling this country according to Mandela’s legacy and I hope that they know that if today South Africa is the most thriving country in Africa, it is because of that principle of human rights and freedom of all.’
Another quote from Mandela’s book reads: ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
‘People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’
Shaine Griqua, Director of LEGBO Northern Cape, told GSN Mandela was a ‘great man who played an outstanding role in shaping the diversity and tolerance of South Africa’.
‘He was gay frıendly and open to dıscuss LGBTI matters, I also knew he was a close frıend of Sımon Nkodi, who was jailed wıth the likes of Patrıck Lekota and others,’ Griqua said.
‘Mandela was one of the key people who wanted LGBTIs and other marginalized communities to be gıven space to enjoy their rights as enshrined in the South Afrıcan constitution.
‘We must recall that his whole life was dedicated to the freedom we enjoy today.
‘His death is a closure, and we should celebrate his legacy through acceptance and continuing to following his footsteps in promoting diversity and doing good advocacy work.’
Ndumie Funda, director of lesbians against corrective rape charity Luleki Sizwe, saluted Mandela as a ‘true, honest and humble leader, and a man of integrity’.
‘We will always love you,’ she said.
Jubulani Pereira, the Director of Iranti-Org, was born into apartheid.
‘I was born into a system of segregation, a system in which inferiority and the oppression of Black South Africans was downright evil,’ Pereira said.
‘He leaves a legacy of resilience and compassion that we as LGBTI persons must never forget, as our oppressors persistently impose hatred on us because of our sexual and gender identities.’
Melanie Nathan, an LGBTI and human rights advocate, who attended the same University as Mandela and practiced law in South Africa during apartheid, said:
‘I will remember Madiba, Nelson Mandela, as much more than the man behind the demise of that insidious apartheid, but also as a worldwide icon for democracy and peace, who insisted that never again would any group of South African be excluded from the dignity of full equality.
‘And so he ensured that the new South African Constitution specifically included sexual orientation and gender identity into its protections for all South Africans.
Throughout his life, Mandela urged people to fight for peace and equality.
He said: ‘The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.’