Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela ended his 11-day U.S. tour on Saturday with a promise to return as early as October, and high on his agenda will be discussions with Native Americans on ways he can "help in their struggle."
Mandela, seemingly buoyed by the warm and celebratory welcome on his final stop in the United States, nonetheless was forced to cancel an appearance at a fund-raising dinner Saturday night. His wife, Winnie, skipped an engagement in Berkeley as the Mandela entourage left at 6:24 p.m. for Ireland, roughly 12 hours ahead of schedule.
Mandela took about 10 people with him on a charter flight out of the country. Others in his entourage were to leave on commercial flights. Word of his abrupt departure came as the staff at the Oakland Convention Center were setting up tables for what was to be his final appearance on the U.S. tour.
"The (scheduling) conflict is that he promised to be in Ireland," explained Roger Wilkins, national coordinator of the U.S. tour. "He also promised to be here."
Before leaving, Mandela addressed more than 60,000 people at the Oakland Coliseum and apologized to a delegation of Native Americans for being unable to meet with them. The Native Americans had been among roughly 200 people who greeted him at the Oakland airport.
"I can assure the leaders of the Indian community that I will return in October," Mandela said, adding that they had given him letters describing their living conditions. "We will exchange views on what I could do to help in their struggle."
On his stop here, Mandela repeated his central messages: that the United States should keep economic sanctions in place, and that funds are needed to continue the fight against the racist South African system of apartheid.
He acknowledged the strong support his struggle had received in the San Francisco Bay Area, going out of his way to thank Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Berkeley), who introduced the first anti-apartheid resolution in Congress in 1971.
REST WAS UP IN THE AIR:About the only rest Mandela received during his tour was aboard "Air Mandela." A29