On this year’s International Human Rights Day, the Commonwealth Students’ Association and the University of Essex Bar Society join the people of the Republic of South Africa in mourning the death and celebrating the life of the great icon, leader and founding father, Tata Nelson “Madiba” Mandela.

Across the world, men and women are raising their voices, their hearts and their hands in remembrance of probably the greatest soul that lived in our life time. Indeed it is true, it is the living who close the eyes of the dead, but it is the dead who open the eyes of the living. Tata Madiba opened our eyes to the possibility that we, as global citizens, can live as brother and sister, regardless of our ethnic, economic, socio-cultural or historically diverse backgrounds.

Though he was not the only one, there were countless others had lost their lives along the way, Tata Madiba was the face of the struggle against apartheid – an evil system that flew in the face of all civil, political, social and economic rights- in South Africa. In as much as in his earlier days he had issued a call to arms, Tata Madiba demonstrated that it is possible to make an ideological shift by rising to walk in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. His transformation was not without a cost: he had painfully borne the personal price for his stance.  He chose the highroad of suffering without bitterness and in his choice, he became the unifying factor of a then torn South Africa. In a country that in our lifetime had seen the worst racial prejudice, he led the greatest racial healing. He wanted everyone to be free, enfranchised and empowered. He became to us a modern day demonstration of forgiveness, respect and humility.

In his honour, as a generation, we set ourselves to live a life committed to ensure the end of all forms of prejudice. Tata Madiba once said: “a good head and a good heart are a formidable combination, but when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something special.” As students and human rights advocates, we recommit ourselves to not only engage our pens and tongues but also our hearts and minds to speak and fight for the voiceless .We will work towards bringing an end to all forms of injustice in all our spheres of influence: it is our time to heal the world and make it a better place.

Tata Madiba has fought the good fight, he has run the race, and he has kept the faith. He has gone to his eternal reward.

Mandela is dead, long live Mandela!