Nelson Mandela has spoken out for the first time in public against Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe. The former South African President condemned what he called “a tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe”.
His comments came after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth stripped Mugabe of his honorary knighthood. Mr Mandela was addressing a fund-raising dinner in London, ahead of a concert to mark his 90th birthday. Political leaders and a host of celebrities from the world of music and movies attended the event.
Oprah Winfrey was among the guests: “You spend 27 years in prison, you come out and do the thing that everyone thought was impossible to do – become president of the nation, and change the way people feel about Africa. Then you live to celebrate 90,” she said.
Singer Annie Lennox, a fierce opponent of apartheid during the 1980s, was there. Asked if she thought Mr Mandela should be doing more, regarding Zimbabwe, she said Mr Mandela was probably doing a lot more behind the scenes.
“What he is, is a symbol of hope,” she said. “Hope over despair, hope over impossibility and it’s just beautiful to see him at 90 years old. How wonderful is that?”
Ever the statesman, in his speech Mr Mandela was also quick to condemn recent violence in South Africa: “We have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country,” he said.
Mr Mandela retired from politics nine years ago but despite his age and ill-health he has continued to campaign for world peace and an end to poverty.