Nelson Mandela death: Edinburgh vows tribute

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A LASTING tribute to Nelson Mandela will be established in Edinburgh, the Lord Provost promised today as the Capital joined the rest of the world in mourning one of the giants of the 20th century.

The man who led South Africa’s transition from white minority rule and became the country’s first black president after 27 years in prison died last night, aged 95. He had been seriously ill for some time – he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 – and was receiving care at his home in Johannesburg having spent three months in hospital with a lung infection earlier this year.

Nelson Mandela has died aged 95

Nelson Mandela has died aged 95

Mr Mandela was given the freedom of the city when he visited Edinburgh for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 1997.

Now a fresh tribute will be paid to the anti-apartheid icon in Edinburgh.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “I was greatly saddened to learn of Nelson Mandela’s passing. But I also felt a sense of relief that he can now be at rest. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends today, but also with the people of South Africa as they come to terms with their great loss.

“Edinburgh has a long and close association with South Africa and its struggle for equality and, of course, with Nelson Mandela himself.

“I will be calling on officials to explore how Edinburgh can create a lasting tribute to Nelson Mandela in order to commemorate his contribution to creating multi-racial democracy in South Africa and his association with this city.”

Back in 1997, Mr Mandela accepted the “freedom scroll” from the then Lord Provost Eric Milligan at a ceremony in his room at the Caledonian Hotel – and he thanked the people of the Capital for their contribution to his struggle for liberty.

To seal the ceremony, President Mandela drank sipped Scotch from a silver quaich before the day’s business at the Commonwealth conference. After finishing his dram, he joked: “I’m going to the conference. I hope I’m not too aggressive.”

There had been fears that Mr Mandela would be forced to pull out of the city conference due to ill health, but South African sources made clear he was determined to attend.

City council transport and environment convener Lesley Hinds, who proposed giving Mr Mandela the freedom of the city, recalled: “He was coming to Edinburgh for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, and I thought that was an appropriate and important time to give him freedom of the city as many other cities had done, including my home city of Dundee.

“I think he’s such an inspiring person – he was in prison for all those years, and he came out and forgave people and worked for the best of his


Mr Mandela was made a Freeman of Midlothian in 1985, but was unable to collect the award until October 1993, when he came to Scotland as part of a European visit.

Edinburgh celebrated Mr Mandela’s 90th birthday in 2008 by flying the South African flag from the City Chambers and opening a book of commemoration to allow members of the public to send a

personal message.

Donald Anderson, who was leader of the council at the time Mr Mandela received the freedom of the city, said: “I have always thought that Nelson Mandela was simply the greatest statesman of all time. It is true that other leaders faced bigger and more challenging issues through history, but none conducted themselves with such a combination of intellect, dignity and humanity. His legacy will shine brightly down the ages.”


City councillor Lesley Hinds pays tribute to Nelson Mandela.

When I sit in the Mandela Room in the City Chambers, I always read the words of Nelson Mandela, which are on the wall in large bold writing – “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.”

I had the privilege of proposing, in 1997, that he be granted the Freedom of Edinburgh, an honour which isn’t bestowed lightly. At a private ceremony, President Mandela stressed how he felt honoured to receive this award, while recognising it as a tribute to the whole South African nation, who were working to forsake conflict and to embrace unity. For many years, the city council, and before that the former Lothian Regional Council, was affiliated to the anti-apartheid movement and subsequently Action for Southern Africa, both of which fostered links with South African people. In 1986, the council erected the Woman and Child sculpture in Festival Square as a symbol of Edinburgh’s stand against apartheid.

I am extremely proud of the part played by the citizens of Edinburgh in the struggle to achieve a free and democratic South Africa and this is borne out by the words of Mandela himself, who said: “Without the support of the international community, including the people of Edinburgh . . . our freedom would have been unthinkable. For your contribution, we thank you from the bottom of our heart.


1984: Room at Edinburgh City Chambers is named in honour of Nelson Mandela.

1985: Mandela is a made a Freeman of Midlothian but cannot pick up the award because he is still in prison.

1993: Mandela finally picks up Midlothian’s award during a visit to Glasgow when he addresses crowds in George Square. Later that year, students at Edinburgh University vote to name students’ association building in Potterrow the Mandela Centre.

May 1994: Edinburgh City Chambers flies South Africa’s new flag to mark Mandela’s election as president.

June 1997: Edinburgh ambulance staff build links and give advice to their opposite numbers in South Africa.

October 1997: Mandela awarded Freedom of Edinburgh as he visits city for Commonwealth conference.

August 2001: Edinburgh school pupils name Mandela as one of their top heroes in a survey.

November 2003: Mandela invited to be guest of honour at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

July 2008: Edinburgh flies the South African flag to celebrate Mandela’s 90th birthday.

August 2009: Former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox unveils a plaque outside the City Chambers honouring Mandela’s Aids charity 46664.