Nelson Mandela has been remembered in a rain-soaked stadium in Johannesburg. Family members, world leaders and tens of thousands of ordinary people celebrated the life of South Africa’s favourite son.
Tuesday’s memorial service for the country’s first black president who died last Thursday was an opportunity to reflect on the man who led the fight and won against apartheid.
Andrew Mlangeni was a fellow defendant and inmate of Mandela at Robben Island prison.
“Madiba’s greatness as a leader stems from his humility and an engraved belief in the persuasion and respect for collective leadership. He believed in sharing insights, and listening to and learning from others,” Mlangeni said.
It was one of the biggest gatherings of international dignitaries in recent years with more than 100 current or former heads of state or government attending.
US President Barack Obama received the biggest cheer for his address in which he described Mandela as a “ giant of history”.
“Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and argument; the need to study those you agree with but also with those you don’t agree with. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet,” said the president.
And in an unprecedented gesture which reflected Mandela’s spirit of reconciliation between two ideologically opposed nations, Obama shook hands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro.
In contrast to the exuberance of the memorial service in Johannesburg, Wednesday will see the week-long commemoration take on a more formal tone. Mandela’s body is to be taken to lie in state in Pretoria’s Union Buildings where he was sworn in as president in 1994.
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