Mandela joins calls for black role models

Nelson Mandela has called on successful black Britons to do more to combat gang violence and low aspirations.

In a pre-prepared address to the first Londoner Black Leader dinner, the former South African president said black leaders must act as role models to those who “scale the mountains with you”.

The 89-year-old anti-apartheid campaigner is in London to witness a statue of himself in Parliament Square. This morning he joined mayor of London Ken Livingstone and Gordon Brown to unveil the nine-foot bronze statue.

Last night, Mr Livingstone held the first Londoner Black Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair.

Mr Mandela was too frail to attend the event, but released a statement saying the gathering was “testament not only to the achievements of all of you gathered but also to the ability of a city to harness the talents of all of those who come in search of opportunity, and all of those who follow them”.

According to reports, Mr Mandela told guests: “Leadership comes with responsibility. It is important for you as leaders to harness those responsibilities and ensure that you also empower those around you who scale the mountains with you.”

The Noble Peace Prize winner yesterday met with Gordon Brown. The prime minister paid tribute to Mr Mandela as “the most inspiring, the greatest and most courageous leader of our generation”.

Mr Mandela’s comments follow a report by the Reach panel of experts that improving the achievements of young black men could lift the British economy by £24 billion over the next 50 years.

The report, commissioned by the Communities Department, said black teenagers needed a more diverse range of role models, rather than musicians and sportsmen.

The justice secretary has called on the black community to provide positive role models to young men.

Jack Straw also argued for the importance of father figures to combat violence.

Young black Britons are overwhelmingly represented in the crime statistics. According to the Home Office, three quarters of gun crime victims and nearly four in five suspects are from the African-Caribbean community.