The African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank, a division of The Institute of Jamaica, wishes to expresses its condolences to the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa at the passing of former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
South Africa holds a special and sacred space in the hearts and minds of the people of Jamaica. As a nation whose black masses were once subjected to the unjust system of Apartheid, it mirrored the experience of chattel slavery that our own ancestors had experienced. Here, as in South Africa, our forebears defiantly resisted both ignoble regimes and undermined them until their eventual collapse.
While we will forever recall the actions of our own freedom fighters that facilitated the attainment of our “Full Freedom” in 1838, contemporary Jamaica observed and championed the cause of our brothers and sisters in South Africa that led to the collapse of Apartheid in 1991. Our people identified with the struggle and praised the dignity and dynamism of the individual who personified the movement, Nelson Mandela.
The Government of Jamaica was one of the first to formally agitate against the system of Apartheid and it continued to do so at the diplomatic level until the unconditional release from prison of Mr. Mandela on 11th February, 1990. The work of our singers, musicians, songwriters and poets also contributed greatly to the cause for freedom in South Africa and underscored the historic and spiritual links between South Africa and the people of Jamaica.
We recall that the following year, as a mark of honour and solidarity with the people of Jamaica, Mr. Mandela and his former wife Winnie, journeyed to Jamaica on a State Visit. Mr. Mandela arrived on the island on July 24, 1991 to a great public welcome. During his visit he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by the University of the West Indies and both the Mandela Park in Half-Way-Tree and the Mandela Highway in St. Catherine were named in his honour. To solidify the diplomatic relations between both countries, a High Commission was opened in Jamaica in 2000 and Jamaica established its mission in South Africa in 2006. Mr. Mandela last visited Jamaica in 1998 where he attended and delivered the keynote speech at the 19th CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting.
Today, we celebrate the work of this great Statesman, Humanitarian, Philosopher, Leader and Father of the new South Africa. We recall the words of the late Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, whose words are appropriate at the passing of our beloved ‘Madiba’ “A man’s life from birth to death was a series of transition rites which brought him nearer and nearer to his ancestors.” The Institute of Jamaica will forever cherish his work and contribution to the cause for freedom and liberty throughout the world.