I have been fortunate enough to have had the honour of meeting President Nelson Mandela on a number of occasions.

I first met Madiba in Stockholm in Sweden in 1990 just following his release from 27 years on an Apartheid island that was meant to break him and his comrades.

It did not break Madiba.

It only strengthened his beliefs is justice, equality, and dignity for all.

I was 18 when I met Madiba for the first time.

And then through the years, I had the honour of meeting him again, always briefly, and always leaving me with a feeling that is indescribable.

“Mandela” the symbol, and Mandela the human-being are inextricably fused, and it is that symbol and it is that unswerving passion and compassion and selfless sacrifice that Mandela embodies, that shall always be my personal moral compass.

I do not believe in God.

I do not believe in religion.

What I do believe in are the very principles and the beliefs that Mandela and so many others fought for, and achieved, and though the war is far, far from over, what Mandela and his comrades, and ordinary South Africans and indeed all the peoples of the world still fight and aspire towards – a world less cruel, a world that is kinder to the weakest economically disenfranchised, a world that offers dignity and health-care and support and human respect to all living beings, regardless of class, culture, creed, race, and all the many divisions that human-beings have created.

“Mandela” the symbol MUST endure!

Far too many have fallen, far too many have been cut down, assassinated, murdered by the forces of privilege and capital for “Mandela” the symbol to be simply grieved over and then transformed into an emblem for the ruling party.

“Mandela” belongs to all the world.

There is a story my father told me, about going to an anti-Apartheid meeting in the back-waters of Kerala, a southern Indian state in the 1980’s.

They were being transported by boat to the venue and the man who was rowing the boat was singing a song in Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala. The words ‘Mandela’ could be heard in the boatman’s song, and so my father asked the boatman who this ‘Mandela’ was that he was singing about.

The boatman was shocked that ‘people from the city’ didn’t know about the man whose face the world had not seen in decades, and whose struggles and ideals touched the deepest backwaters of Kerala to such an extent that boatmen sang songs for a man locked up on an island on the other side of the world.

That is “Mandela” – the symbol for oppressed people everywhere.

That is “Mandela” – the belief in a better less cruel, and more just world.

And that symbol, “Mandela” shall never die.

It is up to all of us to ensure that “Mandela” lives on.

And “Mandela” shall live on in our daily actions, how we treat the sick, the elderly, the economically disenfranchised, the oppressed, on other words, the 99% of this world.

“Mandela” shall live.

Mandela Lives.