Cape Town - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu struggled to hold back tears on Friday as he bid farewell to his friend Nelson Mandela.
“We are relieved that his suffering is over but our relief is drowned in our grief,” he told reporters at the SABC auditorium in Cape Town.
“He has taught us how to care together and believe in ourselves and each other, a unifier from the moment he stepped out of prison.”
Looking small in his purple robes on stage, the 82-year-old spoke slowly and struggled to speak at times.
“Like a most precious diamond holed deep beneath the surface of the earth, the Madiba who emerged from prison in 1990 was virtually flawless.”
Tutu, who was accompanied by his daughter Mpho, recalled memories of the late statesman which stood out for him.
One of these was when Mandela arrived at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, in a Springbok jersey.
“That action was worth more than all the sermons we could preach about reconciliation.”
Tutu said it was impossible to forget the time Mandela met former South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd's wife, Betty, for tea and koeksisters in Orania, a whites-only enclave.
“Who will forget that one of the VIP guests at his inauguration was his jailer? Who can forget that he had lunch with the man who had prosecuted him at the Rivonia tiral and asked for the death penalty to be imposed?”
Tutu said he did not believe the alleged doom and gloom that would seize the country without Mandela.
“This is, I think, to discredit us South Africa, to discredit his legacy,” he said.
“Our potential is immense. We are fantastic people... let us reach out to each other and let Mandela's dream be our dream.”