Waikato grieves for a 'hero of our lifetime'

20:26, Dec 06 2013
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An outpouring of sorrow from all corners of Waikato has joined millions of international tributes at the death of one of the world's greatest leaders.

Nelson Mandela's long illness gave expatriate South Africans in Waikato a chance to deal with their grief but Afrikaans Christian Church minister Johan Hendricks said they would still feel a great loss.

"He was one of the few modern-day heroes, a real hero that has lived in our lifetime," Mr Hendricks said.

Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Mandela escorted on to Turangawaewae Marae by the now Maori King Tuheitia.
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Mandela waves goodbye to the crowd outside the marae.
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Standing on the porch of Mahinarangi house with current Maori King, Tuheitia.
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Waving to the masses with the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu (partly obscured).
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
One of three local children presents Mandela with a taonga.
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Nelson Mandela sits at the porch of the whare on Turangawaewae Marae.
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Nelson Mandela gives a hongi to Koro Wetere.
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Hundreds gather outside the marae for the 1995 visit of Nelson Mandela and his daughter Zenani. He is flanked by Koro Wetere and the current Maori King Tuheitia
Nelson Mandela visits Turangawaewae Marae in 1995
Mania Hope was one of three children to give a taonga to Nelson Mandela in 1995. She and Tukoroirangi Morgan stand at the protea tree planted by Mandela during his trip to Ngaruawahia.

Mr Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital last June in a serious condition and returned home on September 1 in a critical condition.

The political prisoner-turned president was jailed for 27 years after he was found guilty of conspiracy to overthrow the South African government. His ill health has been attributed to his 18 years confined to the wind-swept Robben Island.

He emerged from detention in 1990 to fight and win South Africa's first democratically elected presidency in 1994 and was considered the father of modern South Africa.

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Nelson Mandela's death
STREET SYMPATHY: Mourners react with song and dance on the street in Soweto where Mandela once lived.
Nelson Mandela's death
CANDLE LIGHT: South Africans have been laying tributes to Mandela since his death this month.
Desmond Tutu
MEMORIAL SERVICE: Former Archbishop of Cape Town and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu held a mass at Cape Town's Anglican St George's Cathedral for Mandela.
Nelson Mandela's death
BIG BANNER: In France, a huge banner featuring Mandela's face was hung from the foreign affairs ministry.
Nelson Mandela's death
PARLIAMENT SQUARE: In London, in the shadow of Big Ben, floral tributes were laid at the base of Mandela's statue.
Nelson Mandela's death
YOUNG TRIBUTES: A prayer ceremony was held at a school in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: People start singing as they arrive for a mass memorial for Nelson Mandela at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: The 95,000-seat stadium will host the main ceremony.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: People start singing as they arrive for a mass memorial for Nelson Mandela at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are escorted off the tarmac as they arrive in South Africa to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
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LIFE CELEBRATION: A woman in the crowd takes a moment for contemplation.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: Crowds have filled a stadium in Johannesburg to farewell former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: British Prime Minister David Cameron was among world leaders to attend.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: Young and old came to pay their respects.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: Unusual adornments were worn by some.
Nelson Mandela's death
FORMER LEADER: Ex-South African president FW de Klerk takes his seat in the stadium.
Nelson Mandela's death
EX-WIFE: Winnie Mandela, ex-wife of Mandela, is seen in this still image from the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation.
Nelson Mandela's death
MEMORIAL PRESENCE: Graca Machel, Mandela's widow, was present at the stadium.
Nelson Mandela's death
CURRENT LEADER: South African President Jacob Zuma waves as he arrives at the stadium. He was later booed by the crowd.
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A mourner pumps his fist during the Nelson Mandela memorial in Soweto.
Nelson Mandela
Mourners cover up with umbrellas as US President Barack Obama delivers his eulogy.
Jacob Zuma
Under-fire South African President Jacob Zuma was booed and jeered before his speech.
Barack Obama
An image of Nelson Mandela shows on the big screen as US President Barack Obama speaks.
Mourners at Mandela memorial
Attendees sing and dance at Nelson Mandela's memorial.
Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama delivers his eulogy.
Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama greets Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel.
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The crowds gather at Soccer City stadium for Nelson Mandela's memorial.
Nelson Mandela memorial
J. Nico Scholten, from Amsterdam, holds up a photo of his meeting with Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela memorial
A child draped in a South African flag at Soccer City stadium for Nelson Mandela's memorial.
Mourners at Mandela memorial
Elizabeth Alexander was on holiday from Sydney when Mandela died. She walked in the rain to get to the stadium.
Mourners at Mandela memorial
Aucklander Ray Vantrhaar was back home in South Africa for the funeral of his father.
Nelson Mandela's coffin in state
GLASS COFFIN: Nelson Mandela is lying in state for mourners to pay respects.
Nelson Mandela's death
SOMBRE ARRIVAL: Personnel carry the coffin on Nelson Mandela into Union Buildings, Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
Thousands of South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
Thousands of South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
FW de Klerk
Former South African president FW de Klerk walks away with wife Elita after paying respects to Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela
A flame burns near a portrait of Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu.

Mr Hendricks said Mr Mandela was a great man who earned the respect and reverence of all South Africans.

"He was, for all South Africans, a symbol of reconciliation and from my perspective, he was instrumental in doing something that was close to a miracle."

"Even if you have a negative feeling of what he did before he went to prison, everybody appreciated him for what he did after he came out of prison. Nobody can say anything negative about his life after that."

Mr Mandela attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Auckland in 1995 and took time to attend a powhiri at Turangawaewae Marae hosted by the late Maori Queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. More than 3000 people packed into the marae grounds to see Mr Mandela as he was escorted by Te Atairangikaahu's son and the current Maori king Tuheitia.

King Tuheitia said yesterday he was full of sorrow for a man who inspired so many. "Our thoughts are with the family of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa at this time and we, along with the peoples of the world mourn the loss of one of the twentieth century's greatest and most inspirational figures."

A protea plant, the national flower of South Africa and a mere shrub at the time, was gifted to the marae by Mr Mandela and flourished into a tree just behind the marae courtyard.

"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."

All Black and King Country great Sir Colin Meads made tours of South Africa during the apartheid era and met Mandela on the All Blacks' first post-apartheid tour of South Africa.

He told the Times that the South Africa they visited was at a crossroads and though he wasn't part of the All Black tour at the time, he was asked by Eddie Tonks to join the official delegation to meet Mr Mandela.

He returned to South Africa for the 1995 Rugby World Cup and watched as South Africa emerged as the Rainbow Nation.

"It was a tremendous occasion for South Africa," Meads said. "It's easy to say now but it was a wonderful thing for their reintroduction into world sport on the big arena. It was a very proud country and a very proud Mandela that night."

Waikato