(Reuters) - Here are some comments from notable figures about Nelson Mandela, made during his lifetime.
“Nelson Mandela gave 27 years of his life, walked out of prison, and included his oppressors in his government so that they could all be free. He taught us that none of us can ever be free at another’s expense.” - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2008.
“Anyone who wants to talk to me on the basis that Mandela is the leader of black South Africa can forget it.” - South African Prime Minister John Vorster in 1975.
“As soon as he renounces violence and undertakes not to start violence in South Africa, government will release him.” - South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha in 1988.
“He is at the epicenter of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are.” - Nadine Gordimer, South African writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature.
“Nelson Mandela may be the most gentle, good-humored, even mischievous icon that the world has known. He is also one of the strongest. The world has seen how deeply he believes in freedom, human dignity, and the right of the individual to fulfill his or her dream.” - Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2007.
“These are not saints. They are politicians in a complicated reality and it is the total picture that was decisive.” Francis Sejersted, Chair of the Nobel Prize Committee, on awarding the Peace Prize to Mandela and DeKlerk in 1993.
”Mandela is my hero because he is a man of great personal honor, strength, and integrity, but he was always fighting for something greater than himself, and that was the freedom of an entire nation.
“He remains a hallmark of what it really means to give of oneself selflessly- which is, indeed, a gift for us all.” - Boxing champion Muhammad Ali in 2005.
“He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”
“The ANC has tried for years to remove me from the political landscape. I am sure that if anyone knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of so much antipathy, it is Nelson Mandela.” - Mangosuthu Buthelezi, former leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, in 2005.
“I do regard him as probably the most impressive person I’ve ever met. One of his most attractive traits is this wonderful - and slightly self-deprecating humor. But also the humanity of the man - being able to really touch you in a particular way, as he does for millions of people who’ve never met him,” Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson in 2012.
“I find it obscene the way everybody and his or her partner, the ex-presidents and other vacuous and egomaniacal politicians, the starlets and coke-addled fashion models, the intellectually challenged and morally strained musicians, the hollow international jet set-treat you like some exotic teddy bear to slobber over.” - Anti-apartheid activist and poet Breyten Breytenbach in an open letter to Mandela on his 90th birthday in 2008.
“Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of. That is being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.” - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 2013.
Editing by Angus MacSwan