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Mandela’s wisdom, in his own words, in new book

The Nelson Mandela Foundation on Monday launched a new book that distills his wisdom into 2,000 quotes on everything from prison life to reconciliation to his grief over the ravages of AIDS.

The foundation said the project was born from the thousands of requests received every year from people and organisations across the globe seeking to verify statements attributed to Mandela, both celebrated and obscure.

Editors Sello Hatang and Sam Venter scoured public speeches as well as private papers, correspondence and audio recordings made over 60 years to ensure the veracity of every statement in “Nelson Mandela by Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations”.

“I see this as a reference work. I’m hoping that people will walk away knowing more about the man Nelson Mandela was,” Hatang told AFP.

That is a daunting task for a man lionised as leader of the liberation struggle against white-minority rule, who won the Nobel Peace Prize and became South Africa’s first black president.

The quotes are grouped into more than 300 alphabetised categories, from “Accountability” to “Zionism”, including more personal themes like “Mother” and “Childhood”.

“Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children,” he wrote in a letter from Robben Island prison in 1981.

Some quotes reveal his thoughts on leadership.

“It is absolutely necessary at times for the leader to take an independent action without consulting anybody and to present what he has done to the organisation,” he said in a 1993 conversation.

“A common touch is of an immense advantage, especially on the part of a head of state,” said the man revered as one of the world’s greatest statesman.

Other quotes were culled from the manuscript of a never-completed sequel to his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”.

“My comrades in prison were men of honesty and principle,” he wrote, remembering his 27 years of incarceration.

Many are from his public pronouncements, which guided South Africa during its democratic transition since Mandela became president in the first all-race elections in 1994.

“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice,” he said in 1995.

Mandela turns 93 on July 18, and concerns about his health have mounted since his brief hospitalisation in January for an acute respiratory infection.

He was photographed last week reading from a copy of the book given to US First Lady Michelle Obama during her visit.

Venter said Mandela was given a copy of the book on the eve of the launch.

“We are hoping when he gets a chance to read it, he will be blown away,” Hatang said.