Like millions of people across the globe it was with real sadness that I heard the news of the death of Nelson Mandela.
His death was not a shock, but his life sent shockwaves across the world and his legacy is felt and will continue to be felt by generations to come. He was an inspiration to so many people in South Africa and inspired so many people globally to join the anti apartheid movement.
I am proud that so many of our members were active in campaigning for Mandela’s release during his 27 years in prison and for a South Africa free of racism and oppression.
If UNISON was a friend to Mandela, then we were honoured to count him as a friend to UNISON.
And I was never prouder than when I had the honour of meeting him on one of his many trips to London.
True to his humble style, his first words were to thank UNISON for the work we had done over the decades and more crucially the campaigning we are still doing to build a strong, fair and peaceful South Africa.
He was a truly great man, a man of peace but a man whose courage, determination and dignity in the face of extreme and harsh imprisonment was a powerful force for change.
He continued to demonstrate his strength and ability when he took on the job of creating a truly multiracial society as South Africa’s first Black president.
It was never an easy path but Mandela knew about struggle. He set about rebuilding and uniting his nation with determination and courage in the face of his critics.
Our union was proud to have stood by him and others in the movement in the tough times to help support their historic struggle for equality, justice and in ending apartheid.
And we are proud that he was an honorary president of UNISON.
We mourn his passing, but are grateful for his life.