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Leaders mourn for Mandela

Updated: 2013-12-10 06:41
By Zhao Yanrong ( China Daily)

Leaders mourn for Mandela

Mourners leave flowers for former South African president Nelson Mandela outside his home in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sunday. Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, died on Thursday at 95. Pedro Ugarte / Agence France-Presse

Former South African president hailed as 'moral model for the world'

As one of the most charismatic leaders in the world, Nelson Mandela won the respect and love of many people, regardless of race, ideology, or gender. This is very rare, even for world leaders, but Mandela deserved it, observers said on Monday.

More than 70 heads of state and government are heading to South Africa this week to attend funeral events for Mandela, the country's former president, with most due to attend a huge memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Vice-President Li Yuanchao, as a special representative of President Xi Jinping, also left for South Africa on Monday to attend the event, which has been billed as one of the largest ever gatherings of world leaders.

"Mandela is a moral model for the world. He was extraordinarily charming because of his spirit of forgiveness, equality and freedom," said Liu Guijin, who was the first special representative of the Chinese government for African affairs.

Liu borrowed one of Mandela's famous quotations: "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."

Mandela spent 27 years in jail, but he did not take revenge after he left prison. His forgiveness united the country, which once was divided by racial and fratricidal hatred.

"He dedicated his life to the freedom of his country and the equality of his people. Many conflicts and disagreements in the world are still handled by force and bloodshed. His spirit is still worth learning from even today," Liu said.

The memorial service on Tuesday will be held at the FNB stadium in Soweto, where Mandela made his last major public appearance for the 2010 World Cup final.

According to the South African government, more than 80,000 people will attend the four-hour memorial event in Johannesburg.

The list includes presidents past and present, global figures and A-list celebrities, such as United States President Barack Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

"The whole world is coming to South Africa," the country's foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said.

Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of commerce who worked in Africa for many years, said Mandela's death marked the end of an era.

"Mandela was a fighter who was firmly against racial discrimination and apartheid. His goal was hard to achieve, but his success, especially his strong willpower, won respect from the whole world."

After his first term as president, Mandela decided not to seek a second term. He became a peace ambassador and an HIV/AIDS campaigner, traveling around Africa.

"Many people in Africa fought for the leadership because they wanted the benefits that came with the position, but Mandela did not. He had always been hardworking for the good of the African people," Wei said.

China and South Africa established diplomatic relations in 1998, while Mandela was president, which made him the founder of Sino-South African relations, Wei said.

"Mandela was always friendly toward China. After bilateral cooperation was started, he was interested in Chinese agriculture and hoped to realize food self-sufficiency in Africa as well," he said.

Cooperation between the two countries has expanded to many industries, such as manufacturing, tourism and infrastructure, and China is the largest trade partner of the African country, he said.

Wei met Mandela four times when he worked in Africa for the ministry.

"Mandela had problems with his legs after years of sleeping on the hard concrete ground in prison, but he insisted on greeting us by standing up every time. He was a really kind person and full of wisdom," he said.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.

zhaoyanrong@chinadaily.com.cn

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