There was always danger that the speeches at Nelson Mandela's funeral would degenerate into wooden platitudes, especially those from the African leaders chosen to satisfy diplomatic protocol.
This time, unlike at Tuesday's memorial, the protocol threw up some warm, moving tributes that did justice to the great man's contributions to the continent - and reminded South Africans what the continent contributed to us.
Ticking off diplomatic checklists is never a good way to plan a funeral. On Tuesday, at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, we all saw what happens when protocol trumps passion: besides Obama, who has the advantage of a fantastic speechwriting team and is anyway one of the world's finest orators, the representatives of Brazil, China, Cuba, India and Namibia delivered a procession of platitudes which sent the crowds scurrying out of the FNB stadium well before time. The words may have been right, but where was the warmth, sincerity and humour that Madiba's legacy deserves (qualities in abundance at Wednesday's memorial in Cape Town, and others around the country, which were filled with people who really knew and loved him)?
We could all be forgiven, then, for our groans of disappointment when we saw the...