Tributes poured in for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, as thousands gathered in South Africa to pay their respects to the late human rights crusader, who passed away last week at the age of 95.
Almost 100 world leaders, including American president Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attended a memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg.
“His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph,” said Obama (NBC News). “Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.
“The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.”
Canada’s official delegation also attended the ceremony in South Africa. Former Prime Ministers Jean Chretien, Kim Campbell, and Brian Mulroney, along with current PM Stephen Harper, flew in to Johannesburg on Monday afternoon. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark was also set to meet the four Canadian leaders on Tuesday.
“When you just get one look at what president Mandela did in South Africa, you know it was all worthwhile,” said Mulroney (CBC News). “It’s an over-wrought expression, but Nelson Mandela was an iconic figure who was truly a great man.”
Also on Tuesday, former American president Jimmy Carter compared Mandela to other 21st century icons of global peace, including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi.
“They weathered very difficult times, they came through with flying colors, they inspired other people,” Carter told NBC’s Brian Williams. “I think that Nelson would go down in history as one of the leading people of the century.”
Nelson’s legacy to Nelson, B.C. broadcaster
Hicks was also a local broadcaster in apartheid-era South Africa, and was a national anchor for the country’s state-owned media organization, the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
“It was extraordinary when you got to shake his hand and look him in the eye,” Hicks says, who met Mandela a couple of times. “He had an aura of calm and stability that downplayed the huge significance of this former freedom fighter becoming the first freely-elected president of a truly multiracial South Africa.
Hicks told Star News reporter Greg Nesteroff that he was banned from saying the words ‘African National Congress’ (Mandela’s party and South Africa’s current governing party) on the air.
“Everybody, white and black, watched live on TV when he was released (from prison) and in the following days the fantastic speech he made,” Hicks said.
“The atmosphere was incredible euphoria.
“He was the moral rock for all of us. It was an absolute pleasure to watch and be in the same room on occasion with him.”
– Story by Greg Nesteroff, Nelson Star News