December 11, 2013 4:28 pm
Updated: December 11, 2013 4:32 pm

People across Sask. paying homage to former South African leader

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Watch the video above: People across Sask. paying homage to former South African leader

SASKATOON – While the world prepares for the burial of former South African President Nelson Mandela in his childhood village of Qunu on Sunday, supporters in Saskatchewan have paused to reflect on his life and accomplishments.

Saskatoon-based family physician Johann Malan has long been an admirer of Mandela and his philosophies.

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“It’s just an aura around him which is captivating the moment you meet him,” said Malan.

Malan is distantly related to Daniel Francois Malan [commonly referred to as D.F. Malan], who was Prime Minister of South Africa from 1948 to 1954. His party gained power largely on the platform of segregation.

Many historic writings credit Malan’s multi-year reign with laying the foundation for apartheid, a policy of racial segregation.

“I come from the wrong side of the line,” he said.

Malan studied medicine on a military bursary and eventually became a medical officer.

“I met him [Mandela] for the first time as a prisoner and he struck me immediately as a phenomenal man. So good. He was so friendly,” he recalled.

According to the South African-born doctor, several of the country’s main news sources were blatantly biased in their portrayals of Mandela and his comrades. Often they were painted as devilish enemies of the system, he said.

“We basically grew up believing everything we read and heard. Television only came to the country in ’76 so we had newspapers and radio for news.”

Malan’s fondest memory of Mandela, is from a hot December afternoon spent sitting in the mountains under the sun without a cloud in the sky.

“Mr. Mandela and his whole entourage came by, his eye caught mine and he was about 20 paces away and he walked right up to me, shook my hand and said ‘I’m so glad to see you doctor. What are you doing here now?'”

“There is a legacy this man dreamed of and he worked at it and started building it and it’s for us to pick up.”

For fellow-Mandela supporter Mohamed Moolla, reflecting on his former African National Congress (ANC) comrade is of the utmost importance.

“His legacy was that we celebrate, that people can forgive and continue in a process of reconciliation and understanding,” said Moolla.

Moolla’s wife and children have been in South Africa participating in a number of memorials. The Regina-based doctor praised Mandela’s spirited advocacy for the downtrodden.

His uncle was arrested around the same time Mandela was, but managed to escape with five other comrades in 1963.

“He wanted people to be able to unite and be free of any racial discrimination,” said Moolla.

Dori Halcro from St. Louis, Sask. has fond memories of Mandela. Her father is the late Senator John B. Boucher, who represented the Métis people of Canada during a meeting with Mandela in 1998.

Halcro says her father was instructed not to touch Mandela, but he reached out anyway.

“It’s very customary when you present someone with a sash, to tie it around their waist and give them a Métis name,” said Halcro.

Senator Boucher dubbed the anti-segregation supporter “Diamant” because of the bright light he spread throughout the world.

Saskatoon’s Hillcrest Memorial Gardens & Cemetery is holding a memorial for Nelson Mandela at 4 p.m.

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