Mandela Had Become a Hero in Wales and throughout the World, Touching People of All Politics, of All Faiths or None, of All Races. It Is Hard to Think of Any Global Figure Who Has Commanded Such Universal Admiration and Affection - or Who Ever Will; NELSON MANDELA: 1918-2013 Nelson Mandela Commanded Respect the World over, Says Peter Hain, the Former Anti-Apartheid Leader in His Affectionate Tribute to the Charismatic Figure

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THERE were two surprises at the opening ceremony of the August 1994 National Eisteddfod at Pentreclwydau in the Neath Valley.

THERE were two surprises at the opening ceremony of the August 1994 National Eisteddfod at Pentreclwydau in the Neath Valley.

Not just my first - and painstakingly rehearsed - speech in Welsh of welcome to my parliamentary constituency. But within it a special message from Nelson Mandela.

Not just my first - and painstakingly rehearsed - speech in Welsh of welcome to my parliamentary constituency. But within it a special message from Nelson Mandela.

He had asked me to thank Wales for its support in the anti-apartheid struggle. The clapping was spontaneous, not least because Mandela had only months before won a majestic election victory, and the veteran freedom fighter was now president of his country.

He had asked me to thank Wales for its support in the anti-apartheid struggle. The clapping was spontaneous, not least because Mandela had only months before won a majestic election victory, and the veteran freedom fighter was now president of his country.

History may judge that Mandela was being typically generous in his Eisteddfod message. Yes, there was a strong Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement, organised by the inestimable Hanif Bhamjee, and backed by the trade unions, Labour MPs and activists, together with Plaid and Liberal members.

History may judge that Mandela was being typically generous in his Eisteddfod message. Yes, there was a strong Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement, organised by the inestimable Hanif Bhamjee, and backed by the trade unions, Labour MPs and activists, together with Plaid and Liberal members.

Yes, also there were demonstrations against the all-white Springboks who at the time could never have included post-apartheid stars like Bryan Habana. But at the Swansea match in November 1969 rugby stewards and spectators, backed by the police, attacked and badly injured our non-violent protesters who had tried to invade the pitch.

Yes, also there were demonstrations against the all-white Springboks who at the time could never have included post-apartheid stars like Bryan Habana. But at the Swansea match in November 1969 rugby stewards and spectators, backed by the police, attacked and badly injured our non-violent protesters who had tried to invade the pitch.

Most rugby stars at the time did not follow the courageous stand of the great Welsh forward John Taylor who refused to play against the Springboks. Almost no sportsmen or women backed Welsh Olympic long jump legend Lynn Davies who signed up to the anti-apartheid campaign.

Most rugby stars at the time did not follow the courageous stand of the great Welsh forward John Taylor who refused to play against the Springboks. Almost no sportsmen or women backed Welsh Olympic long jump legend Lynn Davies who signed up to the anti-apartheid campaign.

In truth, there was a part of Wales was either indifferent or hostile to the anti-apartheid struggle, especially when it interfered in sport. Yet radical struggles - from the Tolpuddle Martyrs through the Chartists to the Suffragettes and the campaign for Welsh Language equality Martyrs through the Chartists to the Suffragettes and the campaign for Welsh Language equality - have rarely commanded universal support. And in that respect Mandela's tribute was fully justified.

- have rarely commanded universal support. And in that respect Mandela's tribute was fully justified.

It was repeated in person on his first and only visit to Wales in June 1998, on a beautiful sunny day at Cardiff's majestic castle, the packed crowd expectant, the VIPs lined up to greet a most important guest to receive the Freedom of the City, and I was the Welsh Minister tasked with introducing him. Hundreds of people were gathered, others outside excitedly straining to catch a glimpse of the great man. …