News / Africa

World Leaders Pay Tribute to Mandela

Outpouring of Emotion at Memorial for South Africa’s Mandelai
December 10, 2013 7:14 PM
Tens of thousands of South Africans gathered Tuesday in a soccer stadium near Soweto to bid farewell to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, a man loved around the world for his long, difficult fight to end apartheid and bring equality to South Africa. The memorial service in Johannesburg also brought together dignitaries and celebrities from around the world. VOA’s Anita Powell was there, and brings us this report.
Anita Powell
Tens of thousands of South Africans gathered Tuesday to bid farewell to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, a man loved around the globe for his long, difficult fight to bring equality to South Africa.  The event at a Johannesburg soccer stadium brought together dignitaries and celebrities from around the world - as well as masses of ordinary South Africans who braved long waits and bad weather to pay tribute to the man everyone here knows simply as “Tata.”

Cold, rainy weather didn’t stop more than 60,000 South Africans - and many dignitaries from abroad - from descending on this Johannesburg soccer stadium to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.

The former president and anti-apartheid icon died Thursday at the age of 95, after a long battle with a recurring lung infection.

He is admired in South Africa and around the world for leading the intense struggle to end South Africa’s racist apartheid regime.  He spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to the regime, and emerged to become South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

  • People cheer as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the FNB Stadium during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the crowd during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • A man holds a placard with an image of Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium during a national memorial service, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela's former wife, listens to speeches during his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • A portrait of Nelson Mandela is seen through a sea of umbrellas during his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • Actress Charlize Theron speaks with musician Bono before the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • People sing and dance as they arrive for the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.

What truly makes him extraordinary was his transformation during those decades in prison from an angry youth leader to a wise statesman who stressed the need for racial reconciliation in this deeply divided nation.

World leaders and celebrities also converged on the stadium, which was the site of Mandela’s last public appearance in 2010, at the final of the soccer World Cup.

Among them was U.S. President Barack Obama, who said that Mandela was his role model.

“Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land.  It stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities - to others, and to myself - and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today," he said. "And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us.  After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength - for his largeness of spirit - somewhere inside ourselves."

Watch clips of Obama's eulogy remarks
Obama Eulogizes Mandelai
December 10, 2013 2:05 PM
Obama Eulogizes Mandela

Johannesburg resident Thuli Fihla, 45, said she couldn’t miss this event.  She credited Mandela for helping her get ahead in life. 

“I actually woke up at 3:30 so I’ve been up very early and I couldn’t sleep early.  But I mean, as a South African, and someone who has seen apartheid before and now witnessed the new democracy, there was no way I could miss this day," she said.  "Mandela is everything to us.  I’ve got the kind of job that I have now because of Mandela.  I have the kind of home that I have now because of Mandela.  You know, everything we have in this country, we owe to Mandela and his colleagues.”

More than 90 world leaders gathered in Johannesburg on Tuesday for a memorial service honoring the late South African President Nelson Mandela.  Below are excerpts.

  • South Africa's President Jacob Zuma: Mandela was a "fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state" stand in the way for a struggle for liberation.
  • President Barack Obama: "Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals."
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "His compassion stands out most. He was angry at injustice, not at individuals."
  • Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff: "His fight went way beyond his national border and inspired men and women, young people and adults to fight for independence and social justice."
  • India's President Pranab Mukherjee: "He was the last of the giants who led the world's struggles against colonialism and his struggle held special significance for us."
  • Cuba's President Raul Castro: "Mandela has led his people into the battle against apartheid to open the way to a new South Africa, a non-racial and a united South Africa."
  • China's Vice President Li Yuanchao: "The Chinese people will always cherish the memory of his important contribution to the China - South Africa friendship and China-Africa relations.''
Beloved as he was, Mandela was still a politician and his memorial was not free of politics.  His death has coincided with a rising swell of disapproval for President Jacob Zuma, who has been the target of a serious corruption investigation. 

The crowd booed Zuma numerous times during the service, while pointedly cheering for his predecessor Thabo Mbeki and even for the nation’s last apartheid president, F.W. de Klerk.

In his eulogy, Zuma referred to Mandela by his clan name, Madiba.

“We do not call Madiba the father of our rainbow nation merely for political correctness and relevance.  We do so because he laid a firm foundation for the South Africa of our dreams - one that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous,” he said.

Mandela’s body will now go to the capital, Pretoria, where it will lie in state for three days.  He will then be buried in a family ceremony in his ancestral home of Qunu.  Each province will also hold memorial ceremonies.

At the ceremony, a gospel choir and the military band put their feelings about Mandela into a universal language, with the song that Mandela used as a rallying cry during the struggle to bring freedom to South Africa.

"Nkosi Sikel’ iAfrica," a liberation song that Mandela had incorporated into the national anthem. Its verses, in a mix of Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English, describe the dreams of this nation: stop wars and suffering, save our nation, the nation of South Africa.

Fitting words for a man who changed not just his nation, but the world.

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Comment Sorting
by: Wayne Krups from: UK
December 10, 2013 2:48 PM
During a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg today, President Barack Obama challenged leaders who supported Mandela’s struggle for freedom but “do not tolerate dissent from their own people,” a stunning piece of hypocrisy given that the Obama administration has aggressively pursued dissenters at every turn, from punitive targeting of Tea Party groups via the IRS to the unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers.

“There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people,” stated Obama.

This is quite rich coming from someone whose administration has overseen, according to Time Magazine, “a record as the most aggressive prosecutor of alleged government leakers in U.S. history.”

This war on whistleblowers has resulted in reporters like James Risen being threatened with jail time unless they reveal their sources, while the Obama administration has charged more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all past presidents combined.

Obama’s Department of Justice also illegally spied on the Associated Press and Fox News in its pursuit of alleged leakers (in other words “dissenters” trying to expose government corruption).

Conservative political groups who dissented against Obama’s policies have also found themselves in the crosshairs. Earlier this year it was revealed that the IRS had targeted political groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names or political persuasion.

“IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status,” reported USA Today.

Not only have Tea Party groups been targeted by the IRS, but prominent critics of Obamacare have also found themselves on the receiving end of audits shortly after speaking out against the Affordable Care Act.

Less than two weeks after appearing on Fox News to relate how he was unable to afford a drastic rise in health care premiums thanks to Obamacare (and basically acknowledging that he would rather leave the money to his family and die), cancer victim Bill Elliott was informed that he would be facing an IRS audit.

After seeing his appearance on Fox News, Chicago insurance broker and ObamaCare critic C. Steven Tucker helped Elliot obtain assistance and Elliot publicly thanked him for doing so. Shortly after, Tucker received a letter from the IRS telling him that he would be audited in 2014.

When Obama criticizes other leaders for not tolerating dissent from their own people, he should take a look in the mirror.

Obama has presided over an administration that has been nothing but intolerant of dissent at every level, deliberately targeting prominent critics of his policies and his prosecution of national security issues – tactics that have created a chilling effect by intimidating other whistleblowers and dissenters from publicly airing their concerns.

Be prepared for backlash from the regime for not groveling to the co-founder of a terrorist organization, Mandela.

by: max uyo ameh from: nigeria
December 10, 2013 2:40 PM
Mandela ! God ? Prophet? Saviour ?
In Response

by: Savo from: Italy
December 10, 2013 3:59 PM
None of what you listed, NONE, just a mere man that was complicit in the founding of a terror organization. FACTS will always dictate.

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