9th October 1993

Nelson Mandela thanks Glasgow

In August 1981, Glasgow awarded the freedom of the city to Nelson Mandela, who by then had been imprisoned in South Africa for 19 years. The certificate was accepted on his behalf by the vice-president of Nigeria. In 1986, the city went on to rename St George’s Place, home of the South African Consulate in Glasgow, Nelson Mandela Place.

At the time, South Africa was ruled by a white minority under the apartheid system of racial segregation.

Mandela’s arrest

Mandela had dedicated himself to ending the system and been arrested on charges of inciting strikes and leaving the country without permission. He was imprisoned and, while in custody, tried on more serious charges, which resulted in a life sentence. He was eventually released in 1990, after 27 years in prison, following a change of leadership in the governing party. He was elected South Africa’s first president in May 1994.

However, between his release and his election, he visited Glasgow, and thanked the city for its support at a time when much of the British political establishment had been against him.

Nelson Mandela visits Glasgow

Speaking at the City Chambers, Mandela said that Glasgow would always be enjoy a distinguished place in the records of the international campaign against apartheid. “The people of Glasgow, in 1981, were the first in the world to confer on me the freedom of the city at a time when I and my comrades in the ANC were imprisoned on Robben Island serving life sentences which, in apartheid South Africa, [meant] imprisonment until death,” he said. “Whilst we were physically denied our freedom in the country of our birth, a city 6000 miles away and as renowned as Glasgow refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system and declared us to be free.”

Glasgow takes the lead

Although Glasgow was the first to award Mandela freeman status, it wasn’t the only one. Several other cities in the UK and beyond followed its lead. According to BBC News, as it looked back at the event on 9 October 2018, “Glasgow’s promotion of Mandela’s cause quickly led to other cities following suit and within a year [Lord Provost Michael] Kelly had launched a declaration for the release of Nelson Mandela. It went on to gain support from 2,500 mayors from 56 countries around the world.”



Other events that occured in October

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