Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Tributes for inspired leader

The Auckland War Memorial Museum lit in the colours of the South African flag as a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Photo / Dean Purcell.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum lit in the colours of the South African flag as a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Photo / Dean Purcell.

New Zealanders have added their tributes to a man whose life is being hailed as proof of the power of forgiveness.

Nelson Mandela's death yesterday was met with sorrow but also recognition of his legacy and example.

Tributes by public figures were matched by thousands of similar messages on social media.

Many flags on public buildings have been lowered to half-mast, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum is lit in the blue, green, red and yellow of the South African flag this weekend.

Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela.

New Zealand's South African community has been joined in mourning by those for whom Mandela's life went beyond national boundaries.

Auckland's Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral will hold a memorial service, the date and time of which are to be advised, at the request of the South African consulate.

Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand's relationship with Mandela, whom he called a beacon of hope, was intimate.

"Of course, that scene after the 1995 Rugby World Cup final when South Africa beat the All Blacks and Nelson Mandela came on the field with a Springbok jersey on is something many New Zealanders will remember.

"But most of all he'll be remembered for the deeds he undertook. The struggle he personally went through. The enormous amount of time he spent in jail. But also the way that he could see that the future for South Africa was one of reconciliation."

Mr Key will lead a small delegation representing New Zealand to Mandela's funeral, once details are known.

The group is likely to include former prime minister Jim Bolger, who attended Mandela's inauguration in 1994 as President of South Africa and then hosted him on a state visit to New Zealand the following year.

It was during that visit that Mandela was escorted on to Turangawaewae Marae by the man who is now King Tuheitia, to meet the Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

Yesterday, the King paid a personal tribute: "I will remember him as a humble man with a great heart and a huge smile who gave himself totally to the cause of freedom and equality for all."

Words of respect

"Mandela was one of the great leaders and teachers of the 20th century. He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness. His passing should re-ignite a worldwide effort for peace."

Paul Simon, whose acclaimed 1986 album Graceland was criticised by some for using South African musicians during a time when artists were boycotting the country. Some artists defended Simon and, with Mandela's approval, he toured South Africa in the 1990s.

"I am so happy that Nelson Mandela is at last truly free. I will wave to him as he transforms into everything around me and on into the cosmos."

Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple.

"Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honour, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind."

Morgan Freeman, who starred as Mandela in Invictus.

"What a sad day that such a great man has passed on and moved on up a little higher. Most extraordinary was how he rose above his being imprisoned and exalted himself above apartheid and hatred to unite the country."

Singer Aretha Franklin.

"What I will remember most about Mr Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge."

Oprah Winfrey on Twitter

"My heart goes out to the people in South Africa and Mr Mandela's family. We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being. It was truly an honour to have known a man who had genuine love for so many people. Rest in peace."

David Beckham on Facebook

"Thank you for all you have sacrificed to improve the lives of other human beings. Rest in peace. God bless."

Singer Beyonce Knowles

As an activist I have pretty much been doing what Nelson Mandela tells me since I was a teenager. He has been a forceful presence in my life going back to 1979, when U2 made its first anti-apartheid effort ... Mandela would be remembered as a remarkable man just for what happened - and didn't happen - in South Africa's transition. But more than anyone, it was he who rebooted the idea of Africa from a continent in chaos to a much more romantic view, one in keeping with the majesty of the landscape and the nobility of even its poorer inhabitants. He was also a hardheaded realist. To him, principles and pragmatism were not foes; they went hand in hand. He was an idealist without naivete, a compromiser without being compromised ..."

Extract from U2 singer Bono who has written a column for Time.

Salutes to symbol of courage and reconciliation

Tributes from home

• Prime Minister John Key said he will travel to South Africa once details of the funeral were known. "[Mandela] could see that the future for South Africa was one of reconciliation. He needed to take the people of South Africa forward. He needed to show to the world that there was forgiveness and that there was a new dawn for South Africa."

• Former Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, who was active in the anti-apartheid student movement, said Mandela was a symbol of that movement during the decades he was in jail."As a symbol ... there was no one greater," Mr de Bres said. "He has been an inspiration, and is an inspiration, and will be an inspiration for anybody who cares about racial equality and race relations."

• Former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the United Nations Development Programme, said it was with great personal sadness that she learned of Mandela's death. "Like many of my generation, I was inspired by Nelson Mandela's vision for a democratic South Africa ... [His] words and deeds will continue to inspire those who wish to advance human dignity and fight injustice."

• The former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Sir Don McKinnon said Mandela's forgiveness helped South Africa avert a bloodbath as it transitioned to democracy. "I had the privilege of meeting Mr Mandela several times. He had an intense presence and his smile lit up the room. He focused solely on the individual he was meeting even if it was for just a few seconds, and he made them feel special."

And from around the world

• Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Cape Town lauded Mandela as the man who taught a deeply divided nation how to come together. "What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves. And in him we saw so much of ourselves."

• United States President Barack Obama said Mandela was an inspirational leader who "bent the moral arc of the universe towards justice".

• United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said people around the world were greatly influenced by Mandela's "selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom".

• Former US President Bill Clinton said the world was now without one of its finest human beings. "He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life's real victories must be shared."

• F.W. de Klerk, the South African National Party president who negotiated the end of apartheid and released Mandela from prison, said his biggest legacy was an emphasis on reconciliation. "There was an immediate, I would say, a spark between the two of us, and notwithstanding the many spats we had, I respected him and I always liked him as a person. He was a magnanimous person. He was a compassionate person."

• Boxing great Muhammad Ali saluted the legacy of Nelson Mandela, saying the revered icon of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle "taught us forgiveness on a grand scale".

- NZ Herald

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