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Mandela To Lie In State In Pretoria


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

In South Africa, the memorial for Nelson Mandela has concluded. The song-filled ceremony began with the country's national anthem.


MONTAGNE: Tens of thousands crowded into South Africa's national soccer stadium in Johannesburg in the pouring rain to pay tribute to the man who helped transform a nation - among them 100 world leaders and dignitaries.

President Obama told the crowd Mandela's monumental life serves as a model for everyone. And during the closing address, current South African President Jacob Zuma praised Mandela's sacrifice for freedom.

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA: He was a fearless freedom fighter. Being a lawyer, he understood the possible consequences of these actions, but he also knew that no unjust system could last forever.

MONTAGNE: Earlier, I spoke with NPR correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in the open-air stadium where the memorial service is being held. And she told us the heavy rainfall did not damper the mood.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: On the contrary, South Africans have been swinging and dancing and swaying and chanting Nelson Mandela's name and cheering President Obama's speech, which got huge applause. And the audience here erupted into a loud cheer whenever he mentioned Nelson Mandela - and especially when he talked about himself and the first lady, Michelle Obama, being part of the heritage. And when he mentioned Ubuntu, a word here that means humanity, and it's closely associated with Nelson Mandela, there was another eruption of cheers, as well as, of course, of Mandela - Popa, Popa, Popa(ph). His speech was very well appreciated here in South Africa.

MONTAGNE: And as you say, Jacob Zuma, Nelson Mandela's current successor as the president of South Africa, what words has he been saying about basically the big shoes he's had to fill?

QUIST-ARCTON: He's been reminding everybody about the Madiba, Madiba being Nelson Mandela's (unintelligible) the Madiba legend and the Madiba legacy. And that South Africans and the world shouldn't stop here. They need to - we as the world need to keep up to make sure that the vision of Nelson Mandela and the others who struggled for the end of apartheid, the end of inequality, that that goes much further, that that's very important to remember to build on the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

MONTAGNE: You know, it's incredible, the range of world figures we've been seeing this morning, you know, trooping by,, heading into the stadium and in the stadium, talking - from Cuba's President Raul Castro to President Obama. There's Bono, of course, a rock star. But you know, there was also a handshake that caught people's attention.

QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies, Cuba and the United States. You know, there was a big sort of Twitter rush, as people confirmed there are photographs to show. And it is pretty significant. Because, you know, although the U.S. and Cuba have recently taken small steps towards a rapprochement, I don't know whether the two have shaken hands together. And it came as President Obama was shaking the hands of the Mandela family, the widow, Graca Machel, of course, the ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and the other dignitaries. But it's pretty significant and it's certainly what Twitter is talking - tweeting about all over the place. So it's been an interesting, interesting, interesting memorial for the late former president, Nelson Mandela.

MONTAGNE: And that was NPR correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Johannesburg, reporting from that memorial service for Nelson Mandela earlier this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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