JOHANNESBURG (CNS) – Former South African President Nelson Mandela looked down on the tens of thousands of people gathered at his memorial service in Johannesburg and smiled as he watched them celebrate his legacy, said Andrew Mokete Mlangeni, a Catholic who was imprisoned for decades with the late anti-apartheid icon.
The first to address the crowds at the FNB Stadium Dec. 10 after prayers by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders, 87-year-old Mlangeni said it was a “privilege and honor to say how Madiba touched my heart, my soul, my life.” Madiba was Mandela’s clan name.
“He touched many lives around the world. I am overjoyed by the outpouring of love and admiration by all of you here today,” Mlangeni said.
Mlangeni, who was on trial with Mandela in 1963 and 1964 and imprisoned with him on Robben Island, said he had occupied a cell next to Mandela.
In prison, “Madiba exuded leadership,” said Mlangeni, who was released in late 1989, shortly before the start of negotiations that ended apartheid.
Mandela strongly influenced “my own evolvement as a man, South African citizen and ANC (African National Congress) member,” he said, noting that “without his guidance and leadership I would not have been the person I am today.”
Mandela’s greatness stemmed from his humility “and his belief in collective leadership,” Mlangeni said.
“He created hope when there was none” and was an inspiration to billions by “epitomizing the values of sacrifice and patience,” he said.
Mandela “negotiated the way forward in our nation’s darkest hour,” he said.