Nelson Mandela memorial service closes with call to live out his example

Published 10 December 2013  |  
(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
A woman sings as mourners wait for the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

Leaders around the world stepped up to the podium at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg today to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela at a memorial service attended by thousands.

US President Barack Obama gave a rousing speech in which he called Mandela the "last great liberator of the 20th century".

He said: "It is hard to eulogise any man, how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood. A son, a husband, a father, a friend.

"South Africa, the world thanks you for sharing Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph.

"Let us think of Madiba...and the words that brought him comfort in his cell. It matters not how straight the game. I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.... what a magnificent soul it was."

He concluded: "It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner but the jailer as well."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon commended the spirit of unity that was so apparent at the service.
"He has done it again.... We see leaders representing many points of view, and people from all walks of life. All here, united," he said.

This unity was symbolised in the meeting of Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, who greeted one another and shook hands, a simple gesture, but one which has not taken place between leaders of the two countries in many years. In fact, it is only the second since the beginning of the Cuban revolution in 1960.

General Ki-Moon went on to praise the sacrifices Mandela made in the name of freedom, equality and justice.
"[Mandela] showed the awesome power of forgiveness - and of connecting people with each other... the true meaning of peace. Nelson Mandela is at rest, his long walk complete."

Mandela's close friend and fellow anti-Apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu made an unscheduled and impassioned appearance at the close of the service to pray and rally South Africans to live out all that Mandela stood for.

He said: "We promise God that we are going to follow the example of Nelson Mandela."

During the service, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, read from 2 Kings 2.

The sermon was delivered by Bishop Ivan Abraham, who thanked God for Mandela and praised him as a "true patriot" who "transformed our nation and changed the world".

Mandela was, he said, a "colossus amongst world leaders, a friend to all and an enemy to none".

Andrew Mlangeni, who served a sentence on Robben Island alongside Mandela, said: "He touched my heart, my soul, my life and those of the millions of South Africans.

"He created hope where there was none.

"Madiba is looking down on us now and is no doubt smiling as he watches his beloved countrymen and women celebrate his life and legacy."

Current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was booed by the crowds in the stadium as he rose to give his address, although this has been widely criticised, with some saying that Mandela would not have condoned it.

President Zuma said in his long address: "That we are Mandela's compatriots and we have lived through his time is a cause for celebration and pride.

"Mandela laid a firm foundation for the South Africa of our dreams: united, non-racist, non-sexist.

"He was a courageous leader, a fearless freedom fighter, who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state to stand in the way of the liberation of his people.

"Mandela knew that no unjust system could last forever."

Zuma noted the legacy that Mandela has left behind, and reiterated a commitment to continue to build on the values he promoted.

He finished his speech with a reminder of Mandela's own words: "When a man has done his duty to his people, he can rest in peace."

He concluded: "Our father, Madiba, has run a good race. Rest in peace our father and our hero."

Mandela's body will lie in state in Pretoria from 11 to 13 December. His state funeral will take place on Sunday in Qunu, his home village, before a private burial.

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