Wednesday, December 11, 2013


 Barack Obama delivered an emotional tribute to Nelson Mandela at a rowdy memorial service for the former South African president. "While I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man," Obama said.

 South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, received a hostile reception from the crowd. Many spectators booed him every time Zuma's image appeared on screens in the stadium. ANC deputy chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, who was acting master of ceremonies, had to appeal to the crowd to show discipline. The crowd did quieten to allow Zuma to finish his speech, but many spectators left the stadium during the speech. 
 In his long speech Zuma said Mandela "leaves a country that truly loves him... A legacy of freedom, democracy and human rights." He also announced the Union Buildings' Amphitheatre, where Mandela was inaugurated as President in 1994, will be renamed the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre.

 Obama made history by shaking hands with the Cuba leader Raul Castro ahead of his speech. He also put aside diplomatic tensions with Brazil over spying allegations by greeting president Dilma Rousseff with a kiss. Castro said Cuba would never forget Mandela's moving homage to Cuba's common struggle, when he visited the island in 1991. 
 There were mixed reactions to the various world leaders gathered at the event. China's vice-president Li Yunchao was booed, while Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe was greeted with cheers. 
 John Major, one of four British prime ministers at the service, admitted that Britain was wrong to oppose sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Asked if Britain was on the wrong side of history, Major replied: "Absolutely she was. We should have realised what was happening earlier."

 The service was delayed by an hour as world leaders and mourners struggled to make the service on time because of traffic and rail delays. Some of the dozens of trains reserved to ferry people to the stadium were delayed due to a power failure. But a Metrorail services spokeswoman said more than 30,000 mourners were successfully transported by train.


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