Oxfam’s response to the death of Nelson Mandela

December 5, 2013
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Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International

"My direct contact with President Nelson Mandela was in the context of helping Burundian women to participate in the Arusha peace process. Madiba met Burundi women peace activists and signaled to the negotiators the importance of an inclusive process for a just, peaceful and prosperous future.

We honor President Mandela not only for his vision, courage and sacrifices for the liberation of South Africa but for promoting forgiveness and reconciliation following the end of apartheid. Madiba spoke for all oppressed people in the world. He was the most consistent and powerful voice for social justice in the 20th century."

My deepest condolences go to H.E Graca Machel, President Mandela's entire family and all the people of South Africa.”

Lord Joel Joffe CBE, the lawyer who defended Mandela at the Rivonia Trial

Lord Joel Joffe CBE was the young lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela at the famous 1963-4 Rivonia trial. Exiled to Britain in 1965, he co-founded Allied Dunbar Assurance. Joffe was involved with Oxfam for 17 years from 1981 both as a Trustee and Chair. Oxfam championed the anti-apartheid movement, including withdrawing its business from Barclays who were heavily associated with South Africa. Lord Joffe says:

“Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary human being and I was honored to have had the privilege of representing him as one of his lawyers in the Rivonia Trial. When I first met him at Pretoria gaol, he came into the interview room to meet the team of lawyers dressed in prisoner’s clothes of sandals and short trousers, but typically took command of the meeting. He was a natural leader with great charisma who listened carefully to his colleagues before taking decisions.

During my time at Oxfam, we also supported the anti-apartheid movement by withdrawing our business from Barclays which was heavily associated with South Africa. Oxfam has a long history in South Africa, working with people to overcome poverty and injustice. I was delighted that Oxfam was one of just two charities invited by the ANC to attend Mandela’s inauguration in recognition of its contribution to the cause of justice and equality.

In addition to his great achievements, I will always personally remember Nelson Mandela for his wonderful sense of humor. He had an easy smile and infectious laugh. He was a very warm person who treated everyone the same, as simply another human being.”

Allan Moolman, Country Director, Oxfam in South Africa

“Madiba has always represented the idea of a new and different South Africa. He was and is a symbol of our aspiration to be free, our freedom and our hope for a better South Africa and has carried the torch of justice, equality and peace for almost a century. South Africa and the world are poorer for his passing. As our nation mourns we must keep in mind what it is that we can offer Mandela as a legacy. We can offer him a country in which his people continue to work together to realize our shared dream of a country in which we are all equals, free of poverty and need.

He was a visionary in a time when the struggle was at its most oppressed. It is this vision of hope that led us into a peaceful democracy and enshrined equity into our constitution. Madiba’s acts of immense sacrifice have inspired activists and organizations like Oxfam to continue to fight, against all odds, for equality and justice in a very unequal world.

Hamba Kahle Tata uqhatso ulufezile (Go well, Father, you have done all)”

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For more information

Melanie Gallant
Media Relations



At the Polling Station with Nelson Mandela, 1994

Former Oxfam Canada Board chair Meyer Brownstone, recounts how Oxfam Canada was invited by Nelson Mandela to be present when he cast his vote to end apartheid in 1994.

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