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‘Our world divided’ quote not by Nelson Mandela – but leader expressed similar sentiment

A meme shared on Facebook shows a photo of Nelson Mandela with a quote attributed to the former South African leader. 

The quote reads: “Our world is not divided by race, colour, gender, or religion. Our world is divided into wise people and fools. And fools divide themselves by race, colour, gender, or religion.”

Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013, was a leader of the African National Congress and jailed by the apartheid state for 27 years. He was South Africa’s first democratically elected president, in office from 1994 to 1999.

Mandela is also famous for his speeches and writing. But did he say this? We investigated.

‘These are my words’ – Lebanese activist

An online search for the quote leads to a tweet on the verified account of Mohamad Safa, executive director of Patriotic Vision, a non-governmental organisation in Lebanon.

(Note: While the United Nations spells Safa’s first name “Mohammed”, he spells it “Mohamad” on his personal social media accounts.) 

On his Facebook page, Safa has claimed the quote is his own words, not Mandela’s.

“When I write something about our world or when I fight for human rights, my goal isn't fame or anything like that,” he wrote on Facebook on 6 September 2020. 

“But like everyone, I don't like those who always spread false information or pass our quotes under someone else name. I don't know who put Nelson Mandela's name on my words and shared it online.

“And I am very proud that my words are the same thoughts and thinking that a historical figure like Mandela had. But these are my words like the rest of my writings. If they were Mandela words, you would have heard of them before and you can do your search.”

We could find no credible evidence Mandela ever made such a statement, when we searched online databases, the South African Government News Agency’s collection of famous Mandela quotes and the website of the Nelson Mandela Foundation

He did write these famous and often-quoted words with a similar message in his autobiography: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Taryn Willows


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