x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

An incredible survivor

Nelson Mandela' life is drawing to an end, but his 95th birthday is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the improvement his work has helped bring.

Of the three most famous 20th century campaigners for non-violence, only Nelson Mandela survived to witness the changes he hoped for.

The lives of the other two, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, were both cut short by assassins' bullets, cheating them of the chance to see the triumph of their ideas over the prejudices of their eras.

Mr Mandela could easily have suffered a similar fate but instead had the chance to celebrate his birthday yesterday in a South Africa that is vastly different from the one into which he was born 95 years ago.

This transformation is in no small part due to his life's work, stemming from his renunciation of violence in the pursuit of a nation in which every citizen enjoyed equal rights.

South Africa's peaceful transition in 1994 from an apartheid state to a truly democratic one remains a model of hope for the rest of the world.

His role as an inspiration for his country continued yesterday, even though he remains in a Pretoria hospital, as others followed his call to donate 67 minutes of their time to charity - one for each year he spent fighting to making his South African homeland a place of freedom and justice - providing a fitting tribute to an incredible man.