US President Barack Obama (L) greets Cuban President Raul Castro before giving his speech at the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela at the First National Bank soccer stadium in Johannesburg. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Johannesburg - Former Cuban president Fidel Castro had a deep link to former president Nelson Mandela, Cuban President Raul Castro told Mandela's memorial service at FNB Stadium, in Soweto, on Tuesday.

“The Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the people of South Africa,” he said.

He recalled a trip by Mandela to Cuba in 1991, and said a “bond of perfection” had been forged between Mandela and Fidel Castro during the visit.

This represented “a symbol of the fraternal connection between Cubans and South Africans”, he said.

Castro said his older brother Fidel had told him that Mandela would not be remembered for the 27 years he spent in prison.

“He will go down in history for cleansing his soul from the poison (of apartheid).”

Castro said Mandela had set up “an insurmountable example to Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Mandela had taught these nations that it was only though dialogue and co-operation that conflict could be resolved, Castro said.

During his speech, people were seen jiving out of the stadium with colourful umbrellas.