Thousands pay tribute to South Africa's Madiba

Crowds of South Africans, world leaders, friends and family braved torrential rain today for former South African President, Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Soweto.

In a day of tributes, many of the most poignant came from family and close friends.

Mandela was many things: activist, president, prisoner – number 466-64. Andrew Mlangeni served his term alongside Mandela on Robben Island.

“We were eventually found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island,” he said. “In prison Madiba exuded leadership based on collective thinking. He granted hope when there was none. He forced optimism and confidence out of distrust and sorrow. Madiba is looking down on us now and there is no doubt he is smiling as he watches his beloved countrymen and women united to celebrate his life and legacy”

While his time in jail obviously robbed Mandela of time he might have spent with his own children, he was released in time to forge strong bonds with his grandchildren, four of whom paid tribute to their grandfather.

Andile Mandela said, “The giant tree has fallen, scattering bright leaves, each replicating a million messages of peace, of love and reconciliation. Shall we walk in his footsteps? “

“You have taught us that a group of trees break the angry wind but the tree that towers above the rest is broken by the wind,” said Mbuso Mandela. “Child of the wind, of the land, child of dreams of a future where black and white; rich and poor; men, women, and children must live side by side, dreaming the same dream”

“You are lodged in our memories,” said Phumla Mandela. “You tower over the world like a comet, leaving streaks of light to follow. We salute you.”

Mandela’s body will lie in state before his funeral over the weekend.
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