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When the Right Honourable Joe Clark was in the red chair he told George a story about an enormous act of generosity he witnessed from Nelson Mandela.
During the interview George showed Clark a clip from 1990 where the former prime minister told Mandela that Canadians would support his "courageous walk to freedom."
Clark replied by saying he had another special encounter with Mandela.
GS: That’s a moment, you and Mandela...
JC: There was another moment, George, that was even more spectacular, but very private. Because I had chaired the Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa I was one of a handful of people who was invited to Lusaka, Zambia (the country next door to South Africa) when Mr. Mandela came out, two weeks out of prison to visit the African National Congress in exile. He walked into that room, and there were only about 100 or so of us there, most of them ANC veterans. And he spoke briefly and then there were some questions from them. And the first one, naturally, from a grizzled veteran of the wars, was critical of the Afrikaans people who had held Mr. Mandela captive. And he looked at his supporters and he said, “We have to remember how hard this is for them, how hard this is for our captors, for the people who'd kept us down.” I’ve never seen an act of generosity like that, a mentality of generosity again. And, you know, it is the case that sometimes the actions and statements of a person reveal the inner character. That was Nelson Mandela.
GS: It’s amazing at the time how difficult it seemed to get western leaders to support Mandela and to support the ANC. What were you thinking when Reagan wasn’t where he needed to be, Thatcher wasn’t where she needed to be?
JC: We had a little more latitude than they did. And we were were we needed to be. Mrs. Thatcher was a very complex person. She was not anti-black. She just believed that the kind of campaign we were waging against apartheid would do more damage to the black majority than otherwise. I disagreed with her, but I understood the position. I think President Reagan was probably the same thing. The Americans were involved in a larger game involving the Soviet Union at the time and that was a factor there. But there was a need for someone to step forward. The Commonwealth — from whose meetings Canada is staying away from now — played a really critical role in that. Both because we were numerous, but also because we reflected the wide world. We were not just wealthy Canada. We were also big countries and small who had all sorts of challenges of their own. And yet we came together on this. And we acted together on this.
The Right Honourable Joe Clark's interview with George airs Monday, November 18, 2013 at 7 and 11:30 pm on CBC.