15 December 2013
Speaking at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday, three of Africa’s leaders called on the people of the continent to draw lessons from Mandela’s life in order to take his legacy forward now that he is gone.
In a moving tribute, Malawi President and Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson Joyce Banda recalled her first meeting with Mandela, saying his courage and love for his people had inspired and prepared her to be her country’s first woman president.
“I was inspired by Mandela, who was focused, calm and who had a spirit of forgiveness,” Banda told over 4 000 mourners gathered in a specially constructed dome on Mandela’s farm.
Apart from family members and South African dignitaries, Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Britain’s Prince Charles, US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, US media personality Oprah Winfrey and businessman Sir Richard Branson are in attendance.
Banda said Africa should take stock of the things Madiba taught, such as serving the people. “Tata believed that all people are created equal. He saw no boundaries. He championed the freedom of all of us Africans.”
Banda, who is also a friend of Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, said the SADC would remember Madiba for his wisdom and his tireless efforts towards peace. “We will strive to emulate Mandela’s stature.”
African Union chair and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Mandela’s life struggle in the face of unparalleled odds was a mirror of the continent.
“His life has been a record of all the trials the African countries on the continent had to endure under colonialism,” Hailemariam said, adding that he was humbled to be present at the funeral of one of Africa’s greatest sons and an icon to humanity.
Hailemariam said Mandela had gone out of his way to preach a message of endurance, equality, justice and reconciliation. “As we bid farewell to this great man, we should find consolation in the knowledge that his legacy will live on forever.”
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete recalled the ties the African National Congress (ANC) and Tanzania had forged during the struggle against apartheid. “The people of Tanzania have lost a great friend, a great comrade in arms.”
He said that Madiba was very much the hero and the father of the continent too, adding that his charisma remained unmatched in modern times. “Madiba lived his life well. You should live his legacy.”
Following the funeral service, Mandela will be buried next to his relatives at the family gravesite in a private, more intimate ceremony.