Jesse Jackson 'delighted' to meet Mandela again

Old allies in the human rights struggle, former president Nelson Mandela and United States civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, rekindled their acquaintance at talks in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“I am delighted to meet Mandela again,” said Jackson, who corresponded with Mandela while he was in prison under the apartheid regime.

A beaming Mandela, wearing a bright-orange patterned shirt, clutched Jackson’s hand as they walked to address the media after the meeting.

“He told me he will speak, not me,” said Mandela, before handing over to a jovial Jackson, who said the two leaders had discussed the problems of Aids and investment in South Africa.

“We now want to focus on poverty and have been talking about a mass movement [to tackle] Aids. We need better medicines, treatment and a radical shift in behaviour and attitude,” said Jackson. “Young people dying of Aids need to capture the anti-apartheid spirit and turn it into the anti-Aids spirit.”

Promoting reinvestment in South Africa is also on their agenda.

Speaking to the South African Press Association before the meeting, Jackson said he plans to convene US leaders and urge them to reinvest in South Africa as they divested during the years of apartheid.

Jackson, a Baptist minister who has run for the US presidency, was accompanied by his daughter Jacqueline and son Jonathan.
Another son, Jesse Jackson Jnr, is a congressman in Illinois. Jackson plans to revisit Robben Island so his children can see it.

He said he first visited South Africa in 1979 with the South African Council of Churches, and was in Cape Town the day Mandela was released.

“I was the first African-American to shake his hand,” he said.

He also visited the country to observe the first democratic elections and the inauguration of Mandela as president. 

“We have done years of work together.”

Jackson visited an HIV/Aids project on Tuesday and met ousted Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, living in South Africa.

“I know him and have a high regard for him. I recognise him as the twice democratically elected leader of Haiti. He survived exile and has been driven into exile by the US,” said Jackson.

He said Haiti is critical to American development and has played a key role in the country’s history.

“There has been no regard for helping build their infrastructure,” he said.

Jackson was on his way to Cape Town to meet Botswana’s President Festus Mogae on Wednesday afternoon.—Sapa

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