15 December 2013

South Africa: 'Mandela's Character Shaped Me': Banda

Qunu — Malawian president Joyce Banda was amazed by former president Nelson Mandela's humility and leadership, she said on Sunday.

"The first time I was privileged to meet president Mandela was during his visit to Malawi... shortly after he was released from prison," she told mourners at his state funeral in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.

"I was amazed by his humility and his great sense of leadership... Mandela's character has shaped my life."

Banda said that after visiting Robben Island in 1996, she had tried to find every book she could about Mandela.

"I was further touched by his life and the story of Tata Mandela. I read and read everything."

Banda, who is also Southern African Development Community chairwoman, said she was honoured to be able to pay tribute to Mandela.

"I join you, people of this rainbow nation, to celebrate a life of one of Africa's greatest leaders.

"I stand before you to join you, the people of South Africa and the world to mourn the loss a great leader," she said.

Mandela's widow, Graca Machel stared straight ahead of her when Banda recounted a time when she visited her and Mandela at their home in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Malawian President Joyce Banda received a standing ovation when she spoke about her position as a woman president

Many women in the audience shouted "Yes, yes" when Banda spoke about her presidency.

They waved their hands in the air when she spoke about learning from Mandela's example.

The audience cheered when Banda paid tribute to Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and his widow Graca Machel.

The two grieving women showed little reaction to the address. Madikizela-Mandela looked down and Machel stared ahead.

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