Dec 10, 2013
By Scott Walker
Tens of thousands of people, including dignitaries from around the world, assembled at a World Cup stadium in Johannesburg to pay tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Despite rain and chilly temperatures, people lined up outside the stadium for hours, waiting for the doors to open. In fact, the rain is not considered a bad thing. African tradition holds that rain at a funeral means the person being honoured was blessed.
The celebration of Mandela’s life lasted several hours, with songs and speeches, including tributes from some of Mandela’s 18 grandchildren. One said, “the giant tree has fallen, scattering a billion bright leaves, each replicating messages of peace, of love, of reconciliation.”
Many world leaders also spoke about the life of the anti-apartheid leader. Perhaps the most stirring was by Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States paying tribute to the first black president of South Africa. Mandela thanked the South African people for “sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph.”
The crowd includes a sizable Canadian contingent, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, former PMs Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, Jean Chretien and Kim Campbell, and former Governors General Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelle Jean.