Native South African living in Columbus reacts to Mandela death - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Native South African living in Columbus reacts to death of Mandela

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Imagine a country where white people make up less than ten percent of the population, yet they are the only group allowed to vote or be in charge. We're not talking about the colonial era, it's not even 19th century America. That is the way it was in South Africa only twenty years ago. Christian Ries was living there as a child before Nelson Mandela became president.

"While apartheid was going on, Africans weren't allowed in the streets after certain hours. They weren't allowed in certain areas. They were segregated from the others. They didn't have rights. They didn't have voting rights. Once Mandela was released, that all changed for the better. Everybody got a vote, everybody got a voice, freedom of speech," said Ries.

Nelson Mandela's work to empower the people of South Africa radically improved their quality of life and his work is recognized worldwide.         

Christian Ries has been living in the United States for eleven years, but prior to coming to Columbus, he grew up in South Africa and he was in the country when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison.

Since then, Mandela has been an inspiration to people across the globe, not just as an equal rights activist, but for his embodiment of Christian values.  

"We need to count Nelson Mandela among the great people of our time.   He is a person who made a tremendous difference through his life and through his suffering.   This is a man who spent 27 years in prison.   This is a person who not only survived that, but he went on to thrive and form a new government.   When he got out of prison in 1990, a few years later, he was elected president of the country that imprisoned him," said Professor Thomas Dolan of Columbus State University. 

"He showed love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness.   I mean, how would you feel after 27 years of being stuck in prison?  And then, totally washing it clean and saying, let's get together and unite the nation.   Let's forget about apartheid.   Let's just start a clean slate.   That's remarkable.   I think we can all strive as humans to do that," said Ries. 

Mandela lived long enough to see his dreams become a reality, and to know the injustice he suffered as a younger man will never be experienced by future generations of South Africans.

Just to give you some perspective, even the worst prison in America doesn't come close to the place where Mandela was locked up.   He was forced to perform hard labor, he was allowed one visitor per year for 30  minutes, and he slept on the floor because he didn't have a bed.

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