The world joins South Africa from near and far to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela. This Tuesday’s memorial service at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium was a jubilant celebration of his life. It drew tens of thousands of people and produced glowing tributes to a man the whole world has come to love and respect.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma was one of many international figures who travelled to South Africa to honour the memory of Mr Mandela. Meeting with President Jacob Zuma during a ceremony in Pretoria on Wednesday, Mr Sharma conveyed the condolences of the Commonwealth to the Mandela family, the government and the people of South Africa.
The Commonwealth played a historic role in the demise of apartheid. Marlborough House, home of the Commonwealth Secretariat, was the first place that Mr Mandela visited when he came to London after being released from incarceration, famously declaring: “The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity.”
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Shridath Ramphal notes: “That my official Commonwealth residence was the one he came to when first he came to London, after his release from prison, to meet those who fought with him against apartheid and the injustices of the apartheid regime, will forever be a badge of honour for the Commonwealth.”
Mr Sharma described Mr Mandela as “a man of the Commonwealth who touched the world". He said “it had been a privilege for the organisation to work alongside Mr Mandela in striving for safer and fairer lives and a dignified future for people around the globe".
Tributes by world leaders in Pretoria on Wednesday, following the official lying-in-state observance for visiting dignitaries, demonstrated the extraordinarily high esteem in which Nelson Mandela is held, in death as in life. Founding President of Zambia Dr Kenneth Kaunda said Mr Mandela stood for something special and lived his life in keeping with two important biblical commandments: “Love your neighbour as yourself; and do onto others as you would have done unto you.” He said: “This is exactly how Madiba lived his life.”
President Zuma shared a rich historical perspective of Mr Mandela’s life-long contribution to the Africa National Congress’ struggle over the years, and his unstinting dedication to fairness and freedom for all people. Thanking guests from around the world for their support, President Zuma said: “We really feel we have friends and brothers and sisters around the world. We feel comforted.”