Waikato grieves for a 'hero of our lifetime'

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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.

Waving to the masses with the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu (partly obscured).
Waving to the masses with the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu (partly obscured).
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
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 gives a hongi to Koro Wetere.
Nelson Mandela gives a hongi to Koro Wetere.
Nelson Mandela sits at the porch of the whare on Turangawaewae Marae.
Nelson Mandela sits at the porch of the whare on Turangawaewae Marae.
One of three local children presents Mandela with a taonga.
One of three local children presents Mandela with a taonga.
Standing on the porch of Mahinarangi house with current Maori King, Tuheitia.
Standing on the porch of Mahinarangi house with current Maori King, Tuheitia.
Mandela waves goodbye to the crowd outside the marae.
Mandela waves goodbye to the crowd outside the marae.
Mandela escorted on to Turangawaewae Marae by the now Maori King Tuheitia.
Mandela escorted on to Turangawaewae Marae by the now Maori King Tuheitia.
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.
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.

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

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