, SOWETO, Dec 10 – Even in death, Nelson Mandela has managed to unite people of opposing political and social camps, albeit in grief, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.
“He showed the awesome power of forgiveness — and of connecting people with each other… the true meaning of peace,” Ban told a memorial service for the democracy icon in Soweto.
“He has done it again,” the UN Secretary General said, looking around the stadium where rivals both local and international had gathered to honour the memory of South Africa’s first black president.
“Look around this stadium and this stage,” Ban told tens of thousands gathered in the Soccer City stadium.
“We see leaders representing many points of view, and people from all walks of life. All here, united.”
Among those in attendance were the rival leaders of the United States and Cuba, Zimbabwe and Britain — as well as competing South African political parties.
Ban hailed Mandela for his compassion and sense of justice, and described him as a baobab tree that left deep roots spread across the planet.
“This stadium holds tens of thousands of people but even an arena as big as the African continent cannot contain our pain today,” he said.
“South Africa has lost a hero, they have lost a father. The world has lost a beloved friend, and mentor.”