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Mandela unites world


JOHANNESBURG — Hundreds of world leaders yesterday gathered in Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium for a memorial service for former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who died last Thursday at the age of 95.

Compiled from Reuters, Telegraph and Guardian

The world leaders joined several Hollywood stars and supermodels who also braved the rains to pay their last respect to the liberation icon.

The mourners in the half full 95 000 capacity stadium who braved the rains gave a standing ovation to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who took over the reins from Mandela, United States President Barack Obama and Zimbabwean leader President Robert Mugabe.

But South African President Jacob Zuma was loudly booed, suffering political humiliation as the world watched.

Sections of the crowd jeered when Zuma arrived at the venue in Soweto and each time his face appeared on giant screens during the ceremony, in contrast to the reception given to Mbeki, Obama and Mugabe.

In a rare gesture between leaders of the ideologically opposed nations that reflected the anti-apartheid hero’s spirit of reconciliation, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the memorial.

Raul Castro is a brother of Fidel, one of the fiercest enemies of the US. Castro smiled as Obama moved to shake his hand on the way to the podium before making a rousing speech in memory of the former South African President, one of the world’s great peacemakers.

Obama opened his speech by thanking Mandela’s family, then continued: “To the people of South Africa — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us”.

He chided those who embraced Mandela’s struggle against oppression yet suppressed opposition and critics in their own countries.
“There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality,” he said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

“There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.”

Obama paid an emotional tribute to Mandela, calling him a “giant of history”. The ceremony started an hour late in pouring rain as ruling ANC party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said “the gods are welcoming Mandela to heaven”.

Ramaphosa urged the crowd to show restraint, invoking the example of Mandela after they booed Zuma when he stepped to the podium to give a keynote address. Zuma is weathering a political storm in the run-up to next year’s general elections.

“We should show the same level of discipline as Madiba exuded,” said Ramaphosa, who remarked earlier that the nearly 100 foreign leaders at the ceremony represented “billions of people around the world who are saying farewell to Nelson Mandela”.

Among the other international dignitaries who joined African leaders at Mandela’s memorial were former and current British leaders, including David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major.

The memorial featured tributes by some of the anti-apartheid icon’s family and a speech from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban told the service: “South Africa has lost a hero, we have lost a father and the world has lost a beloved friend and mentor.

“Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time, he was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example, he sacrificed so much and was willing to give up everything for freedom, equality and justice.”

Also speaking at the memorial, Castro said: “Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela: The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice, a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation.

“As Mandela’s life teaches us, only the concerted effort of all nations will empower humanity to respond to the enormous challenges that today threaten its very existence.”

The crowd also warmly welcomed FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president who released Mandela from jail in 1990 after 27 years and negotiated the white minority out of power.


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