South Africa’s first elected president’s health has taken a turn for the worse.
Nelson Mandela, 94, is said to be in critical condition in a hospital in Pretoria.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was recognized around the world for his fight for democracy, has been in the hospital since June 8 for a recurring lung infection. His health has become increasingly frail in the last few years.
Former Pennsylvania Congressman William Gray, who resides in South Florida, believes “when they write the history of the 20th century and talk about giants, Nelson Mandela will be in the forefront with Gandhi with Martin Luther King.
Gray, who brought Mandela to speak at his Church in the1990s, says the leader believed “all people were equal, nobody should be subjected to racism and discrimination and he fought that battle and spent 30 years in prison because of that belief.”
Gray was one of the U.S. Congressmen who authored an anti-apartheid bill to impose sanctions on South Africa that resulted in Mandela’s freedom in 1990. After being released, the Civil Rights leader toured the U.S. and made a stop in South Florida. Speaking at the African National Congress during that visit Mandela said “in jail and behind the thick prison walls we could hear loud and clear the voice calling for our release.”
But the visit would stir up controversy as Mandela’s positions on other world leaders at the time, like Fidel Castro, turned into clashes between his supporters and protestors on the streets of South Florida. Some Cuban Americans called him a communist while Jewish Americans condemned the fact that he had embraced Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The tension would later calm down and now many South Floridians remember Mandela as one of the world’s greatest civil rights activists.