In their own words: leaders and friends remember Mandela

Andrew Mlangeni and Desmond TutuAntiapartheid struggle veteran and Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni, who spent over two decades with Nelson Mandela imprisoned on Robben Island, greets Desmond Tutu backstage at the FNB Stadium ahead of the memorial service.
(Image: Government Communication and Information System)

World leaders joined tens of thousands of mourners on a grey and wet day at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela on Tuesday 10 December 2013. Speakers included South African President Jacob Zuma, whose speech you can read here, and US President Barack Obama, whose speech is here.

Also paying tribute were old friends, family, local leaders and foreign presidents. We bring you excerpts of what they had to say about Nelson Mandela.

Andrew Mlangeni, Rivonia trialist jailed on Robben Island with Mandela

  • “Madiba fought with the goal of uniting all colours and creeds under the banner of mutual respect. He created hope when there was none.”
  • “Madiba touched my heart, my soul and my life. He was an inspiration to billions by epitomising the values of sacrifice and patience.”

Anglican Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu

Mandela on Media Club South Africa
Nelson Mandela: the world mourns
Nelson Mandela – a timeline 
Barack Obama’s tribute to Mandela 
Watch: World reacts to Mandela’s death
Infographic: Mandela family tree
Nelson Mandela’s words of wisdom
The women in Madiba’s life
Tutu leads memorial at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Photo gallery: South Africans celebrate Nelson Mandela

  • In Afrikaans: “God, ons vra dat U ons land gewelding seën. U het ons ‘n wonderlike gawe gegee in hierdie ikon van versoening. [God, we ask that you powerfully bless our land. You gave us a wonderful gift in this icon of reconciliation.]”
  • In isiXhosa: “uThixo siyambulela ngentsikelelo asenzele zona, namathamsanqa. [We thank the Lord for the blessings and the luck he has given us.]”
  • In English: “We thank you, God, and we promise God – hey, we promise you God – [to the crowd in isiXhosa]
    I can’t hear you, man – we promise God that we are going to follow the example of Nelson Mandela.”

Mandela’s grandson Zozuko Dlamini

  • “You are lodged in our memories. You tower over the world like a comet, leaving streaks of light for us to follow.”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon

  • “I hope we will be able to see the rainbow soon through the rain of sadness. A rainbow cleans our hearts.”
  • “An arena as big as the African continent could not contain our pain today. Africa has lost a hero, a father, a mentor. This baobab tree has left deep roots that reach across the planet.”
  • “Mandela was angry at injustice, not at individuals. He hated hatred, not the people. He showed awesome power of forgiveness.”
  • “Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time. He was one of our greatest teachers. Struggle still continues against inequality and for peace and tolerance.”
  • “Nelson Mandela’s smile could light up the world. This boxer fought throughout his life for each of us. It is the duty of all of us who loved him to keep his memory alive.”

Chair of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

  • “From north to south, east to west, Africa is in mourning together with rest of the world for loss of its greatest. We stand proud, Madiba.”
  • “Throughout his life he lived values in struggle, always willing to serve. Working and engaging with him, listening to him, talking to him, was always a lesson. Wherever he went on our continent, doors were opened.”
  • “During his presidency, Tata Mandela championed peace and security on the continent. Today as we bid farewell to this pan-African hero, we recall his words. The time for healing of the wounds has come. Thanks Tata for preparing us for his mortality and for being able to internalise it. Of course we shall miss you, Tata, but we know you will be watching over us and guiding us from God’s celestial shores.”
  • “Tata, Africa shall be prosperous. We shall invest in our children. Thanks for mentoring us.”

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil

  • “We proudly carry African blood in our veins and celebrate this great leader who belongs to the pantheon of mankind. The Brazilian people bow down before the memory of Nelson Mandela. I convey to Graça Machel my deepest feelings of pain.”

Li Yuanchao, vice president of China

  • “Mandela was the pride of the African people. He championed the dignity of African people. The Chinese people will always cherish the memory of his contribution to our relations. He was a household name. The great man’s spirit will live forever.”

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba

  • “Madiba was an inspiration to the people of Namibia. The most fitting tribute to Mandela is to celebrate his life and work for the fulfilment of the ideals he sacrificed for. We wish the bereaved family strength and thank you for sharing this extraordinary human being.”

President Pranab Mukherjee of India

  • “He epitomised an uncommon humanness that inspired all of mankind. He guided his nation to embrace his simple message of tolerance and harmonious coexistence.”