WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, released the following statement today, commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison in South Africa.
“It’s hard to believe it has been exactly 25 years since Nelson Mandela was released from his nearly three decade prison sentence to become the founding father of democracy in South Africa. I am heartened whenever the nation reflects on Nelson Mandela’s legacy, and I continue to mourn the passing of my dear friend and legendary icon.
“Few leaders can measure up to the cultural significance of our beloved Nelson Mandela. In 1994 he became one of the most influential global leaders of the last 100 years when he captivated the world’s attention by becoming the first Black President of South Africa. Nelson entrenched his legacy and became a transcending figure, when he chose to forgive his transgressors and directly take on the tough tasks of dismantling Apartheid’s legacy and healing a damaged nation through racial reconciliation.
“For many years to come Mandela will remain an inspiration to millions of people in South Africa and the world, as new leaders will emerge to follow in his giant footsteps. I keep in my office a framed copy of the 1994 South African presidential ballot; it serves as a daily reminder of the power of perseverance. When I reflect on my own career in public service, President Mandela’s memory is ever present and continually reminds me to fight for justice on behalf of all people of all races.”
Congresswoman Waters had the distinct honor and privilege to know and call Nelson Mandela friend. In 1990, she chaired the welcome committee for the Los Angeles stop on his eight-city U.S. tour, and helped organize a concert and rally attended by 90,000 people. In 1991, she traveled to Durban to attend the first ANC conference since Mandela’s release from prison. In 1994 she traveled with the official American delegation to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President of the Republic of South Africa, and welcomed President Mandela to the United States to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. For Mandela’s 95th birthday, Congresswoman Waters led the Congressional Black Caucus and Members of Congress in organizing a bipartisan celebration of his life and legacy. The hour-long event filled Emancipation Hall to capacity and included most of the congressional leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). These leaders were joined by a large group of civil rights leaders, members of the African Diplomatic Corps and the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa. Upon Mandela’s death, Rep. Waters traveled to South African to attend his memorial service.
As a California State Assemblywoman, Rep. Waters was responsible for A.B. 134, legislation that enabled California to divest $12 billion in state pension funds tied to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. She was also the Los Angeles Chair of the Free South Africa Movement. In 2008, Waters received the Republic of South Africa’s “Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo 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.