Kathrada: Mandela was a born leader

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Nelson Mandela Foundation

Former president Nelson Mandela joins anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada on the eve of his 80th birthday. File photo: Debbie Yazbek

Johannesburg -

Former president Nelson Mandela showed his presidential qualities before he was elected in 1994, African National Congress veteran Ahmed Kathrada said on Sunday.

“It was not in May 1994 (that he became president), it was the night Chris Hani died,” he said at an interfaith prayer service at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton, Johannesburg.

“The country was in turmoil... If Madiba did not come on television we would have seen bloodshed.”

Kathrada said he wanted to remember Mandela as a politician who could laugh at himself. He recalled a story the anti-apartheid icon told him about a child he spoke to.

The little girl had asked Mandela questions such as how old he was and why he had been in jail. After Mandela had answered the girl's questions she said “you just a stupid old man”.

Kathrada said this showed Mandela's ability to laugh at himself.

Mandela died at his Houghton home in Johannesburg on Thursday night. He was 95.

Prayer services were being held around the country in memory of the anti-apartheid struggle icon. A large marquee, filled with people from all walks of life, had been erected in the parking lot of the centre of memory.

African National Congress veteran Tokyo Sexwale was one of the guests.

“Nelson Mandela would be the purest of the purest of good,” Sexwale said to loud applause.

“His method was that of solving a society's most impractical problems through talking and engaging.”

He said everyone could learn from Mandela's example.

Sexwale explained that the centre of memory was created so people would have a place to talk and solve problems.

“Madiba said we must maintain this centre so people who no longer talk could come here to talk.”

Anant Singh, director of the movie Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom was also at the prayer service.

The National Youth Orchestra played a tribute to Mandela outside his home in Houghton on Sunday. The orchestra played the national anthem.

“The crowd joined in singing in full voice and in true South African style encouraged and cheered for more,” the orchestra said in a statement.

“The musicians responded by launching into improvisation of Sophiatown tunes, such as Miriam Makeba's Pata Pata.” - Sapa

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