Former president Nelson Mandela has left to join the "A-team" of the ANC, struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada said at Mandela's state funeral in Qunu on Sunday.
"What I saw in hospital was a man helpless and reduced to a shadow of himself, and now the inevitable has happened -- he has left us to join the A-team of the ANC," he told mourners.
"He cut his political teeth on the non-racist, non-sexist policy for which he sacrificed his whole life."
Kathrada said Mandela had gone to join Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and many others from the African National Congress.
He had also joined those from other parties who had helped liberate the country, such as Helen Suzman, Steve Biko and a host of other remarkable men and women who had all played their part.
"The last time I saw Madiba alive was when I visited him in hospital. I was filled with an overwhelming sadness and emotion and I cried.
"He held my hand and it was profoundly heartbreaking and it brought out all the emotions in me.
"My mind automatically flashed back to a picture of the man I grew up with and how I wish I'd never had to confront what I saw in the hospital.
"I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy, strong man -- the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when the rest of us couldn't do so, the prisoner who vigorously exercised every morning."