Bendigo man pays tribute to Nelson Mandela

BENDIGO man Koos De Wet says Nelson Mandela's death is a huge loss to South Africa.

Mr De Wet moved to Australia from his home land South Africa 17 years ago.

"It's a shock," he said.

"South Africa has lost a great son, there's no question about that.

"I would say some of his greatest achievements, certainly in my book, include his ability to lead the country peacefully to transition in 1994 when forces on both sides were fairly well resisting it and there was quite a lot of turmoil.

"It was certainly one of his greatest achievements."

Mr De Wet said Mandela's ability to bring harmony to South Africa was exceptional.

"I will have been in Australia 17 years this year," he said.

"I originally here to come and manage the redesign of the Bushmaster project.

"Obviously I keep abreast of all the developments in South Africa."

Mandela is credited with dismantling South Africa's system of apartheid which institutionalised racism.

"It was fresh in my mind, I actually witnessed it, so i think of that as probably his biggest achievement because those were tumultuous days in South Africa and it could have gone the other way," Mr De Wet said.

"The fact that he bought a steady calmness to the situation is etched in my mind."

Mandela was South Africa's first black president.

He passed away in the company of his family, aged 95, on December 5.

Mr De Wet said it was a sad time for people around the world, especially South Africans.

"I have many of my family members here and they are all expressing the same view that people don't quite realise the serious loss it is for South Africa," he said.

"He was iconic as well with the younger generations of South Africans.

"Many of them are disenfranchised and have suffered and he was like a light on the hill for many of them.

"So it is a very serious loss for South Africa, make no mistake."

Mr De Wet said it was fantastic the nation's media had paid tribute to Mandela.

"It's amazing the amount of digital traffic by South Africans living here because that is a connecting vehicle for many of us living here," he said.

"Also, we should remember he was a very ill man so, as sad as it is, his death would bring some relief for his family now."

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