Will it be 'Mahatma' Nelson Mandela?

Will it be 'Mahatma' Nelson Mandela?
M Subramoney Durban, Jul 20 (PTI) As South Africa celebrated its anti-apartheid hero and former President Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, his admirers are demanding that the leader who enjoys an iconic status be bestowed a special title similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi's grand-daughter, Ela, who is chairperson of the Gandhi Development Trust, said in an interview that she readily supported a special title "such as Mahatma or a local equivalent" because both Mandela and Gandhi shared special qualities.

"These qualities are humility, respect for all cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious groups and personal sacrifice. These are all saintly qualities and I believe that Mandela deserves a special title," said Gandhi.

The African National Congress leader had spent 27 years in prison, much of it on Robben Island, and was released February 11, 1990.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, Mandela has credited Mahatma Gandhi for being a major source of inspiration in his life, especially with his philosophy of non-violence.

Billy Nair, who spent 20 years on Robben Island prison with Mandela during their anti-apartheid struggle, said he had known Mandela very closely and he believed that "a special title" must be bestowed on him.

"He is one of the most saintly people I have ever been associated with. He is above ordinary individuals and whether we refer to him as Mahatma, Saint or God will not make much difference. But he must be accorded a special title for all that he has done for us and the world at large," Nair said.

After the end of apartheid, Mandela, who is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan, adopted a policy of reconciliation with the white minority leading to a smooth transition to democracy in South Africa.

"I have been told that in India some people have already referred to Mandela as a Mahatma. I hope this will be done for him here in South Africa. Indian-origin film producer," Anant Singh, who produced a special documentary "Nelson Mandela: A Man for all seasons" for Mandela's 90th birthday, said.

He also believed that Mandela was "a very special human being".

"Mandela embodies all the saintly features and there's no doubt that for all what he has done for us he needs to be recognised in a special way," said Singh.

The demand that the leader be given a special title has been voiced frequently on a national state radio station for Indian-origin people, Lotus FM, over the past two weeks on the occasion of Mandela's birthday.

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