Nelson Mandela roadshow follows Jesse Jackson to Britain

By staff writers
29 Aug 2007

Following hot on the heels of the Rev Jesse Jackson, in Britain last week to encourage black communities and launch the economic equality campaign Equanomics, ex-South African president Nelson Mandela was hailed in London yesterday in advance of today's unveiling of a London statue of him.

New PM Gordon Brown met with Mandela in London and dubbed him "the greatest and most courageous leader of our generation" as he welcomed him to Downing Street.

The Nobel Laureate is in the capital to witness a 9 feet-high (2.7 metre) bronze statue of himself being unveiled in Parliament Square - opposite a range of figures from Briatin's imperial past, including South Africa's Jan Smuts.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who fought for the honour to Mandela against opposition from 'traditionalists' will be present at the unveiling with Brown.

One site originally considered was Trafalgar Square, where anti-apartheid activists had for many years picketed the South African Embassy.

Mr Mandela and Mr Brown met for private talks ahead of the ceremony today. They are believed to have talked about the global HIV-AIDS crisis as well as more personal matters.

A Downing Street aide told the BBC that the pair had known each other a long time and the talks were a chance to "catch up".

Mr Mandela said he was proud to be inside Number 10, joking: "My wife and I are happy to be here because, as you know, this was one of our rulers, but we overthrew them. We are on an equal basis now."

Mr Brown declared: "I'm proud to welcome to Downing Street the most inspiring, the greatest and most courageous leader of our generation. It's such a privilege to have Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel... and I'm looking forward to our discussions."

Mayor Ken Livingstone, who last week hosted US civil rights activist the Rev Jesse Jackson, said that Parliament Square - home to statues of Sir Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli - reflected Mr Mandela's significance as a world statesman.

Mr Jackson ended his British visit last week with a call for strong action by local communities against the growing youth gun culture.

His themes in talking to black neighbourhood, voluntary, church and business leaders had been empowerment and the struggle for equality - especially in the area of economics.

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