The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has congratulated anti-apartheid icon and former South African President Nelson Mandela, who celebrates his 94th
COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven said Mandela will continue to be an inspiration to all South Africans, as well as the rest of the world.
“COSATU wished Nelson Mandela a very happy birthday and many more years of happy life. Nobody has done more to earn it in South Africa and he remains an inspiration to all of us,” said Craven.
“Our message," he added, "is to wish him well and to hope that his inspiration will contribute towards continuing the work, which he so much set in motion both in prison and as president, and which can still inspire us today to solve some of the huge problems, which we still face as a country, particularly the very high rate of unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
Craven said COSATU has enjoyed a strong relationship with Mandela.
“COSATU always has an excellent relationship with Nelson Mandela. When we set up a special award named after our founding president, the Elijah Barayi Award, the first person we gave this to was Nelson Mandela. And, it was an obvious choice; there was no debate about that,” said Craven.
“He always saw the workers and the poor as the main people who have to benefit from political liberation," he added. "And, the tragedy is that, today, many of those are still not completely free. He has won our political freedom for us, for which we will always be grateful. But, we still have to struggle to achieve economic freedom about this main challenge, which we face in the years ahead.”
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Children play ball in front of a portrait of former president Nelson Mandela in a park in Soweto, South Africa, March 31, 2013.
Visitors to Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg pass beneath a statue of the former president, April 1, 2013.
Painted stones with well-wishes for Nelson Mandela in the garden outside his house in Houghton, Johannesburg, March 28, 2013.
Nelson Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, salute well-wishers as he leaves Victor Verster prison on February 11, 1990.
This undated photograph shows Nelson Mandela and his former wife, Winnie.
South African State President Frederik Willem de Klerk, left, and Deputy President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela, right, prior to talks between the ANC and the South African government, Cape Town, May 2, 1990.
ANC leader and symbol of resistance to apartheid, Nelson Mandela, is seen as he gives the black power salute to the 120,000 ANC supporters in Soweto's Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 13, 1990.
Nelson Mandela attends a rally in this 1993 photo.
President Nelson Mandela and Britain's Prince Charles shake hands alongside members of the Spice Girls' Emma (L), and Gerri (R) at Mr. Mandela's residence November 1, 1997.
The former South African president, left, and his wife, Graca Machel, wave to the audience during a Live 8 concert in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 2, 2005.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela, center, followed by his grandson Mandla Mandela, rear right, arrives at the ceremony in Mvezo, South Africa, April 16, 2007.
Mandela poses for a photograph after receiving a torch to celebrate the African National Congress' centenary in his home village, Qunu, in rural eastern South Africa, May 30, 2012.
School children read the history of former South African president Nelson Mandela written on a chalkboard, ahead of the opening of a container library by the Bill Clinton Foundation in celebration of Mandela Day, at a school in Qunu, July 17, 2012.
Children sing happy birthday in honor of former South African president Nelson Mandela during celebrations for Mandela's birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, July 18, 2012.
The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to mark Nelson Mandela International Day with an informal meeting Wednesday honoring his contributions to democracy, racial justice and reconciliation.
In his message, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Nelson Mandela gave 67 years of his life to bring change to the people of South Africa. Our gift to him can – and must – be to change our world for the better.”
Craven said South Africans are delighted with the honor Mandela has brought to them.
“[We are] very proud, but it is always a fact that he didn’t only make a huge contribution to South Africa, but he set an example for the rest of the world, which many countries can learn from,” said Craven.
“There are many parts of [our] world, tragically, which are still engulfed in conflict; the Middle East, Syria in particular at the moment, where the people there could learn lessons in how to live together in peace and harmony, despite the differences, which are rooted in history of different countries, just as they were in South Africa," said Craven.
Clottey interview with COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven