Students pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

5th December 2013

News, Student news, Alumni news

As Wadham students heard the sad news that Nelson Mandela died today, Thursday 5 December, they gathered in the Front Quad for a two-minute silence and to sing the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela,’ an anthem sung by so many Wadham students over the years.

  • Nelson Mandela visits Wadham with Dr Farhan Nizami

    Nelson Mandela visits Wadham with Dr Farhan Nizami

  • Mandela-ing

    Wadham students 'Mandela-ing' in the Front Quad on the eve of his death.

Nelson Mandela, the former South African President and anti-apartheid leader, died at the age of 95. South Africa's first black president, Mr Mandela led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison.

The motion to play the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ was passed by Wadham Student Union in 1987, when Wadham alumnus Simon Milner (History, 1985), now at Facebook, was SU President. “Then, the motion was for the song to be played until Mandela was freed,” said Simon. Current SU President Anya Metzer confirms that the song is still played at the end of every College Bop, and the practice is known affectionately as 'Mandela-ing'.

Nelson Mandela visited Wadham when he was in Oxford to give a lecture at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on 11 July 1997.  Then Director of the Centre, Dr Farhan Nizami, (1979) a Wadham alumnus, invited President Mandela to the College along with Prince Charles, Prince Bandar and the Graça Machel, who became Mandela’s third wife.

Later in 1997, the then Warden of Wadham College, John S Flemming, wrote in the Gazette, that during Mandela’s visit: “I was able to recite Wadham’s role in the founding of the Joint Action Committee Against Racial Intolerance and our students’ continuing explicit connection with the cause through work in the immigrant community, songs at their bops, and the naming of their boat, ‘The Spirit of Nelson.’

The Wadham College flag was lowered to half mast as a mark of respect and commemoration to Nelson Mandela.

Celebration of the greatest life – achieving the impossible

South Africa based alumnus, Thomas M Breslin (1984 Law), CEO of Morgan West Group, penned the following tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The death of Nelson Mandela, although long anticipated, will live long in the minds of anyone touched by the man or his deeds.

For people outside of South Africa, who have heard the platitudes regarding the man, and for those in SA who have experienced the tumultuous initial, and continuing changes brought about by the strength, courage, dignity, diplomacy and selflessness of Madiba, the man is and always will be a magnificent testament to the power of unswaying ‘will’ applied in the name of freedom and individual rights. The man and his life will live long in the hearts of everyone and his steadfastness in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds are a lesson for us all – his life and the way he lived it should inspire us all to be better people.

His death in South Africa was greeted with a sadness which was uniquely joined with an overwhelming celebration of his life by ALL South Africans (that would have made him smile) – his legacy can be seen everywhere in SA but most notably in the youth, the generation which we rely on to continue his work. My children do not see colour - their friends are Black, Indian, Coloured and White, and any stories of apartheid and discrimination are greeted with looks of incredulity and disbelief (that would keep him smiling). There is much more to do to achieve the equality which was Mandela’s greatest wish, but the life and achievements of Madiba in establishing the fundamentals of equality deserve the celebration of a truly great man that is happening here in South Africa this week and so much more.

Mandela Memorial Scholarship Fund

In the wake of Mandela’s passing, a group of resourceful and generous alumni are helping us prepare the launch of a special appeal for a Mandela Memorial Scholarship Fund at Wadham, and we shall share the news about this early in the New Year. Please contact Julie Hage, if you would like to be involved: julie.hage@wadh.ox.ac.uk