CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago professor who considered former South Africa President Nelson Mandela a friend said the loss of the equal rights icon was the death of “a president for the world.”
Columbia College professor Dr. Rozell “Prexy” Nesbitt told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker said society has a responsibility to carry on Mandela’s legacy and values.
“I think that the responsibility we have, besides carrying on with the kinds of concerns that he had was to also carry on the values that he represented; the values of reconciliation, the values of making it an equitable world for everybody,” Nesbitt said.
“I am saddened because we have lost what was one of … I think was a president for the world. He wasn’t just the president for South Africa, and we don’t have many figures like him that have appeared in history, and I think that’s the loss,” he added.
It’s also a personal loss for Nesbitt, who met Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, in the late 60s, when Nesbitt was teacher in Mozambique. Through her, he met Mandela.
“Graça and Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] gave this to me on one of my visits, and in it Madiba wrote – and this must have been 2010, August – ‘To Comrade Prexy, warm regards, Mandela,’” Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt also remembered his friend as “an extraordinary reader.”
“He just read and read; he devoured news. So I would often bring magazines and newspapers that he couldn’t get regularly in South Africa, or in Mozambique,” Nesbitt said.
A photo of one of Nesbitt’s sons with Mandela in Mozambique reminds him of the time Nesbitt’s sons were running on Mandela’s white couch, with their shoes on.
“So I said, ‘If you guys don’t get off that couch, I will …’ and this voice from way up above said ‘You will what? These boys can do whatever they want. This is their house,’” Nesbitt said. “That was Mandela; saying and expressing what he just had absolute love for, which was children.”
Nesbitt said Mandela was more than willing to open his home to visitors, and he had his favorites, including pop star Beyoncé, who performed at Mandela’s 46664 concerts to raise money for the fight against AIDS, and visited him at his home. Only, Mandela wasn’t allowed to be alone with Beyoncé.
Nesbitt said Mandela’s wife wife would make sure somebody was in the house with him when Beyoncé would visit.
“He had another side to him that was a bit flirtatious,” Nesbitt said. “He was a ladies man. There’s no question about it.”
Nesbitt teaches classes about Mandela’s life and often leads tour groups to Africa. However, he said he won’t be able to attend Mandela’s funeral because of his teaching schedule at Columbia College.