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Congresswoman Waters Honors Nelson Mandela’s Life and Legacy; Wishes Him a Happy Birthday

July 20, 2011
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) honored Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, on the occasion of his 93rd birthday.  Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison in South Africa for his opposition to the racist system of apartheid.  Following his release from prison in 1990, he negotiated an end to apartheid in South Africa.  He was elected President of South Africa in the country's first free, multi-racial, democratic elections and served in that position from 1994 to 1999.  Congresswoman Waters sent him the following birthday message:


            As I write this letter to wish you a very happy 93rd birthday and join with people around the world to wish you many more years of good health, peace and prosperity, I find myself reflecting on the times of my career that have been most gratifying to me. 


            Among those times are the years I spent in the California State Assembly, when I introduced legislation to divest state pension funds from businesses that did business in the apartheid government of South Africa.  I worked continuously for nine years to get that landmark legislation signed into law.  I consider it the single most important public policy achievement of my 34 years in public service.


            My first trip to South Africa took place after the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) was lifted and the international boycott of South Africa was ended.  During that inspirational trip, I joined with other international representatives in welcoming the end of the ban on the ANC and working for your release from prison and the end of apartheid in South Africa.



            As the Co-Chair of the Free South Africa Movement in the United States, I worked with the tremendous coalition that was built up in the United States to end apartheid.  During my years in this struggle, there are moments I will never forget.  I will never forget the weekly meetings I held in Los Angeles organizing our efforts to end apartheid.  I will never forget the sit-in we held at the South African Consulate in Los Angeles or my arrest at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC.  Most of all, I will never forget the day you walked out of prison a free man and went on to create the greatest change in direction in a country's history of my lifetime. 


            I was deeply honored to have had the opportunity to lead the effort to organize a rally of 90,000 people at the Los Angeles Coliseum to greet you and welcome you to Los Angeles and the United States following your release from prison.  The memory of the magnificent day you were set free is only partially matched by the day you were officially sworn-in as President of South Africa while the South African air force flew overhead.  I will never forget watching heads of state from all over the world march in to honor you that day. 


            I have pictures of you in both of my houses in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, as well as in both of my congressional offices.  I count among my most important acts of human service the work I did on behalf of your courageous leadership on behalf of the people of South Africa.


            I will always cherish the honor of receiving the Republic of South Africa's "Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in Silver" Award for "dedicating her life to the upliftment of the poor and her outstanding contribution to the struggle against apartheid and the attainment of a democratic, non-racial and a non-sexist South Africa."


            I love you.  I hold you in the highest esteem.  Your courage, integrity, and commitment is unmatched by anyone I have ever known. 


            Happy birthday!