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Anti-apartheid activists share Mandela stories

Trade unionists at the STUC Congress pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Trade unionists at the STUC Congress paid tribute yesterday to Nelson Mandela.

South Africa's honorary consul in Scotland Brian Filling regaled delegates with his memories of Mandela.

Mr Filling, a founding member of Scotland's anti-apartheid movement, recalled that when Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen had awarded Mandela the freedom of their cities in the early 1980s the newspapers had branded their gesture as consorting with a terrorist.

But by 1990 the Establishment press was hailing his release as marking the end of an era of violent state repression.

So when the then-ANC presidential candidate visited Mr Filling and other supporters in 1993 "one of the things he had wanted to do was meet the editors of newspapers and television."

Mr Filling said Mr Mandela, widely eulogised as a gentle, tranquil figure, had been polite but blunt.

"He said to them: I was released three years ago. We only got this election today following the assassination of (South African Communist Party leader) Chris Hani.

"I want to say to you: this hasn't been a peaceful or painless transition. And don't you forget it," he said.

Nor was the struggle over, with the legacy of centuries of colonialism "still deeply felt."

The activities of Anglo American and other mining corporations were one such example, he said.

"The people of South Africa are still suffering - that's why we call for fair trade not free trade," he said.

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