Tens of thousands of South Africans stood alongside more than one hundred world leaders last week, as the world paid their respects to the one they called ‘Madiba’.

Nelson Mandela, a global icon and South Africa’s first black president was publicly honoured at the First National Bank Stadium on the 5th December before his funeral, the following Sunday.

Mr Mandela had died the week prior at the age of 95, and his life has been celebrated by all around the world.

Nelson mandela
Nelson mandela

A leader in the fight against South Africa’s apartheid, Mr Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his political activities before finally being released in 1990.

His struggles and efforts to rid the country of the white-minority ruling, was symbolic of that of the whole nation, whilst his work saw him not only receive the Nobel peace Prize in 1992, but also become an icon world-over.

World leaders stood side by side at the memorial event, held at the country’s national stadium last week with members of Mr Mandela’s family also in attendance.

Leading the way with the eulogies was US President Barack Obama, whose heartfelt sentiments were perhaps the most powerful of all the esteemed guest speakers.

Addressing the mass crowd, stood in the rain, Mr Obama said: “To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

“While I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man. He speaks to what is best inside us.
South Africa Mandela Memorial
“There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – that describes [Mandela’s] greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”

He continued: “Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.

“But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. ‘I’m not a saint,’ he said, ‘unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying’.

“It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection, because he could be so full of good humour, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried, that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend.”

On a day of unity, President Obama also performed a handshake with Raul Castro, president of Cuba and Fidel Castro’s brother, despite the country’s problems in the past. The occasion was bigger than both individuals and it was respected perfectly in that manner.

Desmond Tutu, the man who accompanied Nelson Mandela on his long walk to freedom also paid his respects to his friend.

He said: “What a fantastic gift is Mandela, a global icon of forgiveness, of generosity of spirit, a person who invited his prosecutor, George Bizos to lunch at the Presidency.

“The same man who visited the Afrikaner enclave of Oranje to enjoy tea and koeksisters with the widow of the architect of apartheid, Betsy Verwoerd.

“The chemistry of this country began to be affected as a result of Madiba’s actions.”