Members offer bipartisan Mandela resolution

A bipartisan group of House members has proposed a resolution honoring the life of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon and former South African president who died last week.

The resolution, H.Res. 434, finds that Mandela's "defiance of injustice and commitment to peace and reconciliation were critical to achieving the abolition of apartheid, a system of racially based social, political and economic discrimination."

After his arrest in 1962 for conspiracy to overthrow the government, Mandela served 27 years in prison. "[D]uring 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela was permitted only one visitor a year, and for only 30 minutes," the resolution finds.

Mandela was ultimately released in 1990, and elected in 1994 as South Africa's president.

His death has led to some debate about how to judge Mandela's legacy, given his eventual support for violence as a tool to win political change in South Africa. But the resolution glosses over that issue, and says Mandela was arrested "for his acts to end the discriminatory policies of apartheid."

It also credits Mandela for fostering a peaceful transition to democracy in his home country.

"President Nelson Mandela led the peaceful transition from minority rule and apartheid to a multicultural, multiracial democracy, and played a critical role in initiating South Africa's ongoing efforts to foster national reconciliation," the resolution states.

The resolution concludes by saying the House offers sympathy to the members of Mandela's family and South Africans, and asks the Secretary of State to convey that sentiment to the family. Secretary of State John Kerry did not attend Mandela's funeral this week, although President Obama did, along with Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Nearly two dozen members of Congress also attended, including Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who sponsored the resolution.

Bass and other sponsors of the language called on members this week to support the resolution honoring Mandela's life.

"A global leader, Nelson Mandela embraced peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation as powerful and effective tools to mend a society deeply divided," they wrote to members. "While South Africa will continue to address its social and development challenges, it does so grounded in the transformative legacy that President Mandela inspired."

Other original sponsors are House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).

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