South Africans, world leaders and celebrities braved the rain to honor the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: PUBLISHED: MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2013, 6:09 PM ; UPDATED: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2013, 7:30 AM
Nelson Mandela, former South African President and anti-apartheid icon, passed away last Thursday at the age of 95. World leaders are joining South Africans for his memorial service.
JOHANNESBURG — Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President Barack Obama praised Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th century, urging the world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and discrimination.
At a memorial service in Johannesburg, Obama compared the former South African President to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. He said Mandela had earned his place in history through struggle, shrewdness, persistence and faith.
PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
President Obama speaks during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“For nothing he achieved was inevitable,” Obama said. “In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.”
President Obama pays his respect to former South African President Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel after his speech at the memorial service.
In a rain-soaked stadium where world leaders gathered to honor the anti-apartheid leader, Obama traced the influence that Mandela’s story has had on his own life, disclosing that he asks himself how well he’s applied Mandela’s lessons to himself as a man and as president.
He said in the U.S., South Africa and around the world, people must not allow progress that’s been made to cloud the fact that more work must be done.
Late South African President Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie (l.) and wife Graca Machael (r.) attend the official memorial service for Mandela.
“We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality,” Obama said, referring to Mandela by his traditional clan name.
A man takes a photograph of a giant billboard ahead of the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the First National Bank Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa.
Joining Obama on the 16-hour trip from Washington for the ceremony were first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter also attended the memorial service.
Crowds converged on FNB Stadium in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle that Mandela embodied as a prisoner of white rule for 27 years and then during a peril-fraught transition to the all-race elections that made him president.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES
President Barack Obama (left) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Steady rain kept many people away. The 95,000-capacity stadium was filling up during the ceremony, which began at noon local time with the singing of the national anthem.
US President Bill Clinton (frontR), his wife former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) and their daughter Chelsea and former US President George W. Bush (backR) and his wife Laura Bush attending the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela.
The mood, though, was celebratory. A dazzling mix of royalty, statesmen and celebrities was in attendance.
Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president who succeeded Mandela, got a rousing cheer as he entered the stands. French President Francois Hollande and his predecessor and political rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, arrived together. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waved and bowed to spectators who sang praise forMandela, seen by many South Africans as the father of the nation.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are escorted from Air Force One upon their arrival in South Africa.
“I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him,” said Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, a postgraduate marketing student who arrived hours before the stadium gates opened. “He was jailed so we could have our freedom.”
U2’s lead singer Bono and South African actress Charlize Theron chat during the memorial service.
Rohan Laird, the 54-year-old CEO of a health insurance company, said in the stadium that he grew up during white rule in a “privileged position” as a white South African and that Mandela helped whites work through a burden of guilt.
“His reconciliation allowed whites to be released themselves,” Lair said. “I honestly don’t think the world will see another leader like Nelson Mandela.”
Members of the South African Police Services’ elite Special Task Force arrives ahead of Nelson Mandela’s national memorial service at FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City.
Workers were still welding at a VIP area as the first spectators arrived amid an enormous logistical challenge of organizing the memorial for Mandela, who died Dec. 5 in his Johannesburg home at the age of 95.
KIM LUDBROOK/ EPA
Mandela served as South Africa’s president from 1994 to 1999.
United States President Barack Obama landed in South Africa early Tuesday. Besides Obama, eulogies were to be delivered by U.N. chief Ban, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and Cuban President Raul Castro.
Other speakers include the presidents of Brazil, Namibia and India, as well as tributes from Mandela’sgrandchildren.
A woman, with tears in her eyes, braves heavy rain as she waits for the start of the memorial service.
Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, and former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were at the stadium. So were actress Charlize Theron, model Naomi Campbell and singer Bono.
Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito (left) and his delegation are greeted by on arrival to the FNB Stadium in Soweto
Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the day when Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, F.W. de Klerk, received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bring peace to their country.
Mandela said in his acceptance speech at the time: “We live with the hope that as she battles to remake herself, South Africa will be like a microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.”
Frederik Willem De Klerk, the former South African president who freed Mandela from prison, arrives with his wife Elita for the memorial service.
The sounds of horns and cheering filled the stadium ahead of the ceremony. The rain, seen as a blessing among South Africa’s majority black population, enthused the crowd.
President Obama (left) first lady Michelle Obama (under umbrella) and former President George W. Bush (right) are greeted as they arrive at Waterkloof Air Base.
“In our culture the rain is a blessing,” said Harry Tshabalala, a driver for the justice ministry. “Only great, great people are memorialized with it. Rain is life. This is perfect weather for us on this occasion.”
People blew on vuvuzelas, the plastic horn that was widely used during the World Cup soccer tournament in 2010, and sang songs from the era of the anti-apartheid struggle decades ago.
People start singing at the memorial.
“It is a moment of sadness celebrated by song and dance, which is what we South Africans do,” said Xolisa Madywabe, CEO of a South African investment firm.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (l.) arrives with joint UN-Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (r.) and former US President Jimmy Carter (c.) as they arrive at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa.
The soccer venue was also the spot where Mandela made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup. After the memorial, his body will lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, once the seat of white power, before burial Sunday in his rural childhood village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province.
Police promised tight security, locking down roads kilometers (miles) around the stadium. However, the first crowds entered the stadium without being searched.
A South African does his best to shield himself from the heavy rain as he makes his way to the service.
John Allen, a 48-year-old pastor from the U.S. state of Arkansas, said he once met Mandela at a shopping center in South Africa with his sons.
“He joked with my youngest and asked if he had voted for Bill Clinton,” Allen said. “He just zeroed in on my 8-year-old for the three to five minutes we talked.”
JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY
British prime minister David Cameron is interviewed by media prior to the service at the FNB Stadium.
Women with tattoos of former South African President Nelson Mandela on their faces smile as they arrive for his memorial service at the stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday.
People sing and dance at First National Bank Stadium, also known as Soccer City, ahead of a memorial for former South African President Nelson Mandela in Soweto, near Johannesburg, Tuesday.
JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY
Members of the public arrive for the Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at the First national Bank Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday. More than 60 heads of state are attending a week of events commemorating the life of the former South African president.
Lasers beam an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela onto Cape Town’s Table Mountain on Monday to honor the departed leader on the eve of his memorial service on Tuesday.
The official program for former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral on Tuesday.
Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai
African Union Commission: Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Algeria: Abdelkader Bensalah, Speaker of the Council of the Nation
Angola: Vice President Manuel Vicente
Arab States League: Ambassador Amb Samir Hosny
Argentina: Acting President Amado Boudou
Australia: Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Bahamas: Prime Minister Perry Christie
Bangladesh: President Abdul Hamid
Belgium: King Philippe
Benin: President Boni Yayi
Botswana: President Lt Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff
Burundi: President Pierre Nkurunziza
Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Chad: President Idriss Déby Itno
China: Vice President Li Yuanchao
Commonwealth of Nations: His Excellency, Kamalesh Sharma
Comores: President Ikililou Dhoinine
Congo (Republic of the Congo): President Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo): President Joseph Kabila
Côte d’Ivoire: President Allassane Ouattara
Croatia: President Ivo Josipovic
Cuba: President Raúl Castro
Denmark: Crown Prince Federick
Djibouti: President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh
Ethiopia: Prime Minister Ato Hailemariam Desalegn
Equatorial Guinea: President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo
European Council: President Herman van Rompuy
France: President François Holland
Finland: President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö
Ghana: President John Dramani Mahama
Guyana: President Donald Ramotar
Gabon: President Ali Bongo Ondimba
Germany: President Joachim Gauck
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: His Royal Highness Henry of Luxembourg
Guinea: President Alpha Condé
India: President Pranab Mukherjee
Ireland: President Michael D Higgins
Italy: Prime Minister Enrico Letta
Japan: Crown Prince Naruhito
Jamaica: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller
Jordan: Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour
Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta
Lebanon: Prime Minister Najib Mikati
Lesotho: Prime Minister Thomas Thabane
Liberia: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Mauritania: President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Mauritius: Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam
Malawi: President Joyce Banda
Mexico: President Enrique Peña Nieto
Mozambique: President Armando Emílio Guebuza
Namibia: His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, President
New Zealand: Right Hon John Key, Prime Minister
Niger: President Mahamadou Issoufou
Nigeria: President Goodluck Jonathan
Norway: His Royal Highness Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway
Pakistan: President Mamnoon Hussain
Palestinian State: President Mahmoud Abbas
Poland: Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski
Portugal: President Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Sahrawi Republic: President Mohamed Abdelaziz
Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Senegal: President Macky Sall
Serbia: President Tomislav Nikolic
Seychelles: President James Alix Michel
Slovenia: President Borut Pahor
South Korea: Prime Minister Hongwon Chung
South Sudan: President Salva Kiir Mayardi
Spain: Felipe de Borbón, The Prince of Asturias
Sri Lanka: President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Suriname: President Desiré Delano Bouterse
Swaziland: Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini
Sweden: Princess Victoria and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt
Switzerland: President Ulrich Maurer
Tanzania: President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete
The Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh
Timor-Leste: Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana
Trinidad and Tobago: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Tunisia: President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki
Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni
United Arab Emirates: Minister of Culture Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan
United Kingdom: Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron
United States of America: His Excellency Barack Obama, President, First Lady Michelle Obama, former president George W. Bush and Laura Bush, former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter, Attorney General Eric Holder, National Security Adviser Susa Rice.
Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro Moros
Zambia: President Michael Sata
Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe