Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton joined Tony Blair at Westminster last night to praise 100 years of Rhodes scholars and announce a new foundation to fund development programmes in Africa.
The former South African President told an audience of 1,800 dignatories and former scholars in Westminster Hall that the new Mandela Rhodes Foundation would "contribute to a better life for the people of South Africa and the African continent".
He praised the work of the Rhodes Trust, set up with a bequest from Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia, and announced the appointment of Shaun Johnson, a leading South African commentator, former Rhodes scholar and deputy chief executive of Independent News and Media (South Africa), as executive director of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation. He said Mr Johnson "contributed enormously to democracy in our country".
Mr Mandela highlighted the plight of South Africans infected with HIV, which Tony Blair described as a "scourge" that represents "a call to the people of the world to act." He said it was "the proudest achievement" of his Government to direct more than £1bn of aid to Africa in the coming years.
He praised the work of the Rhodes Trust, saying that it was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford who first interested him in politics.
Mr Clinton, the world's best-known Rhodes scholar, praised the trust for giving him "two of the best years of my life" and allowing him to meet South Africans for the first time when he was at Oxford.