NELSON Mandela was a “standard bearer of integrity”, according to Ballarat African Association president Wilbert Mapombere.
Mr Mapombere met Mr Mandela briefly when he visited his home country of Zimbabwe shortly after his prison release.
“A man of unassuming stature, humble always, he was both the messenger and message of true democracy, honesty, accountability and all things positively tangible about true democracy and freedom,” Mr Mapombere said.
“He exuded great presence and became the standard bearer (with his) tenacity to fight and achieve what is right, not for a section but the whole population of multicultural and multilingual South Africa.”
Mr Mapombere was himself tortured and detained in Zimbabwe for five years for political activism before going on to become a lawyer and the country’s deputy chief magistrate.
However, he was forced to flee to Australia due to an assassination attempt, and said all of Africa could still have learnt more from Mr Mandela’s wisdom.
“His shining light knew of no borders – I want to say even in death still shines – all over Africa and across the world.
“He has left a legacy that African leaders in particular will do a lot to emulate in terms of true freedom for all and true democracy.
“He will be missed by all of us African and non-African across the world.
“He is a hard act to follow.
“To South Africans, I say remain united following the wishes and hard work of the father of democracy.”
City of Ballarat multicultural ambassador Meeta Narsi said she grew up in the apartheid regime and remembered being excited at being able to vote for the first time in 1994.
“I don’t recall a lot in regard to discrimination, but I remember this one time when it was our Diwali meal and we were treated badly and that was not a good feeling,” Ms Narsi said.
While she also said she was saddened by Mr Mandela’s death, he had left an amazing legacy behind.
“He has done some amazing things, particularly with human rights.”