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Tributes paid to Nelson Mandela by Liddington lawyer
NELSON MANDELA has, and will continue to, change millions of lives, even in death.
There is one man, currently residing in Liddington, who can attest to that statement. Joel Joffe, of The Street, Liddington, was representing Mr Mandela when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.
The Rivonia Trial put 10 leaders of the African National Congress, Mr Mandela’s political party, in the dock on charges for 221 acts of sabotage. Mr Mandela faced a potential death sentence, but ultimately served 27 years in prison.
“That case was perhaps my most important and most invaluable I have ever done,” said Lord Joffe.
“Mandela admitted all the charges against him and was not at all frightened.
“He saw the trial, which was intended by the Government to totally discredit Nelson Mandela and his co-accused as trouble makers, as an opportunity for he and his colleagues to put the Government on trial, both in the court in Pretoria, but also, equally, in the court of world opinion.”
Lord Joffe, who was a founder of Hambro Life Assurance, one of the largest organisations in Swindon in the 1970s and 1980s, will never forget the times he had with the former South African president and said the example set by Mr Mandela affected much of his own life after the trial.
“What stayed with me was a better understanding that all people are equal irrespective of colour and that there was no case better striving for than human rights,” he said.
In his fight for equal rights in South Africa, Mr Mandela had been portrayed as a communist and thug troublemaker, according to Lord Joffe. Many, including Margaret Thatcher, subscribed to this opinion.
Although this changed, when Mr Mandela came to power in his native land. His time as president is described as successful and admirable by Lord Joffe, who puts much of Mr Mandela’s quality down to his royal background, as the son of a chief in the area he grew up.
“His whole personality was forged in the fight against injustice in South Africa,” said Lord Joffe, now 81 himself.
“He has immense courage and, at the same time, greets everybody, however important, as equals.
“Always, everyone who has ever met Nelson has tremendous admiration and respect for him as a leader as well as a human being.”
The pair came to know each other through the trial in Pretoria, but once Mr Mandela was incarcerated there was no contact, as you would expect. Since Mr Mandela’s race, Lord Joffe said they had seen each other on no more than a dozen occasions.
Mr Mandela though, as portrayed by his former attorney, never forgot those he spent time with, and continued a long-running joke with those in their company when they did come to meet.
“We never had deep discussions, it was more courteous. He’s got a mischievous sense of humour and when he would see me, and he was addressing a group of people, he would introduce me as the man who sent him to jail for 27 years,” he said.
“Of course, some people didn’t realise he was joking and thought he was seriously upset with me for being the man who sent him to prison.
“He had a wonderful sense of humour.”
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