Mandela honours Boer hero

2002-03-06 13:32

Pretoria - Nelson Mandela, the icon of the fight against apartheid, has paid homage to a renowned war hero of his former foes.

He was speaking at a wreath-laying ceremony at a statue of Boer scout commander Danie Theron in Pretoria.

The former president said: "My own shaping as a freedom fighter has been deeply influenced by the work and lives of Afrikaner freedom fighters."

Theron was a legendary figure during the Anglo Boer War, renowned for his acumen as a scout for the Boer forces. He was killed in a battle with British forces near Fochville in September 1900.

His statue was moved late last year from a military base in Kimberley to Fort Schanskop at the Voortrekker Monument. Mandela said: "I'm proud to pay homage to the memory of another brave Boer fighter in the person of Commandant Danie Theron."

Mandela's involvement in the ceremony has raised the ire of the Afrikaner Eenheidsbeweging and some other rightwing organisations.

Some organisations did not attend

The invitation to Mandela to take part was "morbid humour", said AEB leader Cassie Aucamp.

He contended that the ruling African National Congress had dishonoured the struggle of Afrikaners against colonialism in the previous century.

Mandela said he was aware of this debate.

"I can assure you that I took no offence. I think it's good that people feel at liberty to raise such questions in public."

Organiser Gert Opperman said the organisations that objected to Mandela's presence also had been invited to attend.

"But I don't see any of them around," he said.

Strict security arrangements prevailed and a police helicopter patrolled the area before the start of proceedings.