By Petride Mudoola
The South African High Commissioner to Uganda Jon Qwelane paid tribute to fallen South African liberation hero Nelson Madiba Mandela who died on Thursday.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. We had seen it coming, I guess we were all in denial but we had seen it coming. But even then no human being can get used to death," said the ambassador.
"Mandela was the greatest South African that ever lived. His death will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill.
“We lost not only a great man but we have also lost one of the world’s leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
The envoy made these remarks on Friday while handing over Christmas presents to disabled people at Katalemwa Cheshire Home for the Disabled.
The South African High Commission has a relationship with Katalemwa and always celebrates the annual Mandela Day with the disabled people. Unfortunately, this year’s celebrations coincided with his death.
Mandela was known to have profound love for children.
"Most of us knew him personally and we feel a personal loss that such a legend is gone. But of course it’s the road all of us are meant to travel. But even saying so does not make it right that it happened," said Qwelane.
He told of Mandela as being a freedom fighter who rejected violence and who "taught us how to reconcile with our enemies as well as embrace them".
The ambassador recalled: "He went into prison being called a terrorist and criminal but he harbored no hatred for his persecutors. Indeed when he came out, he made sure that he met as many as he could. While still alive, he shook their hands and made peace with them."
The envoy said Mandela's "wrongful" imprisonment set a powerful example of redemption and grace to the world.
He remembers the anti-apartheid hero as a man who set a personal example for the love of the marginalized people.
"He was a down-to-earth leader who respected humankind. We are here in Katalemwa because of his love for children."
Qwelane could not readily pronounce arrangement for the burial program but said that all Government heads will be meeting at the High Commission to forge a way forward.