The grief for former president Nelson Mandela was mixed with admiration and jubilation, President Jacob Zuma said at Mandela's memorial service at the FNB Stadium, in Soweto, on Tuesday.
“His passing has marked an unprecedented outpouring of grief across the world. Yet it is grief tinged with admiration and celebration,” Zuma said, reading from a prepared speech.
“Everyone has had a Mandela moment, when this world icon has touched their lives.”
He said the Mandela family, and South Africa, felt stronger because of the comfort they had received from millions of people around the world.
“Never before has our country celebrated a life as we are doing with that of Madiba. We do not call Madiba the father of our rainbow nation merely for political correctness and relevance,” said Zuma.
“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. We do so because Madiba was a courageous leader.”
He said courageous leaders were able to abandon their narrow concerns for bigger dreams, even if those dreams came at a huge price.
“Madiba embodied this trait. He was a fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state to stand in the way of the struggle for the liberation of his people,” said Zuma.
“Being a lawyer, he understood the possible consequences of his actions, but he also knew that no unjust system could last forever.”
The struggle became Mandela's life, he said.
“He was at the forefront of the radical change in the ANC in the 1940s, advancing the long walk to freedom.”
Zuma said Mandela paid dearly for his beliefs and actions.
“For 27 years, the South African people spoke about him in hushed tones, out of fear, but the powerful name of Nelson Mandela lived on. He continued to inspire our people every single day, from inside prison walls.”
Zuma said Mandela had demonstrated a unique leadership by negotiating with the enemy while in prison. He negotiated for the release of his fellow political prisoners first, before his own release.
“The world came to a standstill watching this tall, imposing figure walking out into a world he had left behind 27 years before,” Zuma said.
“The emotions and feelings we felt on that day are difficult to express in human language.”
Zuma said South Africans had needed a leader like Mandela to help them through the difficult transition from apartheid to a democratic society.
“In the bumpy road to our historic, first free and fair elections, there are many times that he brought our nation back from the brink of catastrophe,” he said.
South Africa's first democratic elections were largely peaceful because of the leadership he displayed, said Zuma.
“Madiba's love for peace was also evident in the work he did in the continent. The people of Burundi enjoy peace and democracy today because of the seeds of peace planted by Madiba.”
Mandela had carefully managed the anger and frustrations of both the oppressors and the oppressed, and reminded South Africans of the common humanity that transcended racial boundaries, Zuma said.
“He told us that the promises of democracy would not be met overnight and that the fears of the few would not be allowed to derail the newly won freedom.” - Sapa