What you need to know:
- World leaders pay glowing tribute to South African hero despite downpour that delayed historic ceremony
- US president describes Madiba as last liberator of the 20th century
- Africans challenged to follow the example set by the freedom icon
- Tens of thousands turn up for memorial service despite downpour
"It is hard to eulogise any man... how much harder to do so for a giant of history.”
With these words, US president Barack Obama led the world in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela at a rain-soaked memorial service attended by thousands of South Africans and mourners from all corners of the globe.
Mr Obama was among world leaders who paid glowing tribute to the fallen South African hero and moral icon during the unprecedented memorial outside of Soweto, South Africa.
Mandela was remembered as a selfless fighter for justice, racial equality, a moral compass, a shining and enduring example of humility, discipline, principle and greatness, an inspiration to billions around the world and a man who created a legacy that would long outlive him.
The memorial was held 10 years from the day he won the Nobel Peace Prize alongside the last apartheid president, Mr Fredrick De Klerk.
Yesterday, in his tribute to Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize committee chairman, Mr Thorbjoern Jagland, said Mandela’s victory over apartheid, his refusal to give in to bitterness and the desire for revenge, represented one of the biggest victories of mankind.
“Mandela certainly lived up to the highest standards of the (Nobel Peace) prize,” he said.
Nearly 100 world leaders and scores of eminent persons and celebrities descended on the FNB Stadium, where Mr Mandela began his fight for racial equality half a century ago and where he addressed his first rally after his release from prison in 1990.
Tens of thousands of mourners braved heavy rains that pounded Johannesburg in the morning as they listened to Mr Obama and other foreign dignitaries who paid their tribute to Mandela.
Speakers were at times interrupted by the singing of the enthusiastic crowds who poured into the stadium despite the heavy rains that complicated planning, delaying the event by an hour.
Mr Obama moved the crowds to a thunderous applause when he referred to one of Mandela’s famous quotes. (READ: Obama's speech at Mandela memorial)
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” Mr Obama quoted Mr Mandela’s 1964 speech.
It was a poignant moment. The first black American president quoting the first black South African president.
Mandela’s fellow Robben Island prisoner, Mr Andrew Mlangeni, said: “Madiba’s greatness as a leader stems from humility... He believed in sharing insights and listening to and learning from others. It should be our collective wisdom to carry his values forward.”
Speaking for Mandela’s family, Gen Thanduxolo Mandela said they were grateful for the outpouring of support.
“We have always been mindful that we share Madiba with South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world. We the Mandela family enter into a solemn covenant that we will commit ourselves to what Madiba stood for,” he said.