France fetes 'freedom fighter'

HERO'S WELCOME: Nelson Mandela with French president Nicolas Sarkozy holding a photo of Madiba taken ater his release from Robben Island. Pic. Thomas Coex. 04/09/2007. © AP
HERO'S WELCOME: Nelson Mandela with French president Nicolas Sarkozy holding a photo of Madiba taken ater his release from Robben Island. Pic. Thomas Coex. 04/09/2007. © AP

PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy presented Nelson Mandela with original photographs taken in 1952 of one of the first anti-apartheid protests led by the ANC, during a dinner in his honour.

PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy presented Nelson Mandela with original photographs taken in 1952 of one of the first anti-apartheid protests led by the ANC, during a dinner in his honour.

Mandela, who was in France as part of a fund-raising tour for his foundations, gave the French president an autographed picture of his emotional return visit to Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 27 years.

The photographs from Sarkozy were taken by Jurgen Schadeberg, the German-born photo-journalist who spent many years in apartheid South Africa. Schadeberg, who worked for Drum magazine, now lives in France.

The photographs show a young Mandela, then a member of the ANC Youth League, taking part in one of the first protests against white minority rule, according to presidential spokesman David Martinon.

Mandela, who celebrated his 89th birthday in July, arrived in Paris on Monday for a three-day visit. He was welcomed by Sarkozy at the airport, a courtesy that is usually reserved for visiting heads of state.

He was the guest of honour at a dinner at the Elysee presidential palace that was attended by Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Sarkozy's billionaire businessman friend Vincent Bollore.

Sarkozy's office underscored that the French leader admires Mandela, who led the struggle against apartheid to become South Africa's first black president in 1994.

The president "wanted to show France's support for Mr Mandela's current endeavours".

Martinon said the elder statesman "remains a freedom fighter in the struggle that he now wages with his foundation against poverty, Aids and for education".

Mandela arrived from Monaco where on Sunday he attended a fund-raising dinner hosted by Prince Albert II to help his children's foundation.

American actor Morgan Freeman delivered a welcome speech to Mandela before about 350 guests who paid about R33320 each to attend. - Sapa-AFP

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