By Mick Krever, CNN
Nelson Mandela set an example for leaders, his people, and the world that “doesn’t have a parallel,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at the Johannesburg stadium where world leaders gathered to memorialize the late South African president.
“The people of South Africa – indeed all of Africa – in Mandela have an immense icon, who I think will be looking down at them in the future, and they’ll be looking up to him and hopefully emulating and treasuring his memory.”
It is, he said, “rather like in British politics.”
“When you have, you know, massive figures like Winston Churchill that have sat in the chair that you now sit in, it doesn’t mean sadly that you’re automatically like them, but it does mean that you’ve got heroes to try and live up to.”
As a former British colony, of course, South Africa and the UK have a unique relationship.
“It’s always said, he had this amazing relationship with the Queen, and indeed I think he’s the only person who can get away with calling her ‘Elizabeth.’”
When Amanpour asked with a laugh if that oft-repeated story was true, Prime Minister Cameron said it was “what I am told.”
Of course, the relationship was often fraught; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed imposing sanctions on the apartheid regime at a time when so many in the world were advocating for them.
“I think everyone in Britain opposed the apartheid regime. Margaret Thatcher opposed the apartheid regime, and indeed called for Mandela to be released. But there was an argument about sanctions back in the 1980s,” he said, adding that he was “not sure that the Conservative Party took the right calls.”
What no one could have anticipated, he told Amanpour, was that it “would come about as peacefully as it did. And that really was down to Mandela.”
“The grace and forgiveness of Mandela is what gave this country an extraordinary chance to be, I think, one of the success stories of the 21st century.”