In tribute to Mandela…

In many ways you could argue that Nelson Mandela and his fight for freedom and social justice inspired me to enter into politics.

At the age of 17, in the very early days of my merchant navy career, I spent three months on the coast of South Africa stopping at Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Cape Town.

This was at the height of Apartheid and I was appalled by what I saw. Men – who by day would work alongside us – would spend their nights sleeping in the hatches and on the quayside, made homeless by virtue of the colour of their skin.

One memory that sticks with me particularly vividly was when I visited Table Mountain – there was even racial segregation at the top of that too.

Seeing the divisions and appalling injustice Apartheid created first hand was a huge wake up call for me. My time in South Africa inspired me to get myself an education and develop a strong sense of social justice.

Mandela’s fight inspired many thousands, including me, to enter politics. He can quite rightly take the credit for ending Apartheid and healing a nation – bringing reconciliation between black and white South Africans. He became a global force for tolerance, peace and social justice; touching the lives of millions of people along the way.

In 1994, Liverpool gave Mandela the freedom of the City. He should have been given the freedom of the World.

Freedom fighter, visionary, president, leader, Madiba; your legacy will never be forgotten.