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Zuma praises Mandela for thinking about policy

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Speaking at the Waterkloof base, from where Nelson Mandela's body would be flown to Qunu, President Jacob Zuma says Madiba was "a man of action".

Jacob Zuma alongside Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandla and widow Graça Machel. (Reuters)

Former president Nelson Mandela was able to balance being a great thinker and a great doer in his political life, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on Saturday.

"So many things have been said about Madiba because he has done so many things; he has distinguished himself so many times in every way you can think of," Zuma said at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, from where Mandela's body would be flown to the Eastern Cape.

"He [Mandela] combined two things that are not easy to do – to combine theory and practice. He did it more than many [times]."

Zuma called Mandela "a man of action" and praised him for thinking about policy.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and former president Thabo Mbeki were in the audience, along with struggle stalwarts Frene Ginwala, Ahmed Kathrada, Mac Maharaj and Barbara Hogan.

Throughout the special ANC tribute ceremony various groups of guests, such as representatives from the ANC Women's League, school children, and an eloquence of lawyers got up and stood by Mandela's coffin for a few moments.

Revolutionary songs
Musician Zahara performed along with poet Mzwakhe Mbuli. The audience sang revolutionary songs. A choir sang Ave Maria and the National Anthem.

Dozens of political parties from around the world were represented at the ceremony.

Mandela's body will be flown from the base to the Eastern Cape later on Saturday morning. He will be buried in Qunu, where he spent most of his childhood, on Sunday.

Mandela died at his Houghton home in Johannesburg last Thursday at the age of 95.

Meanwhile, the first of several dignitaries expected to attend the funeral of Mandela arrived at the Mthatha Airport just after 8am on Saturday.

Mandela's long time friend and lawyer during the Rivonia trial George Bizos was in the first group to arrive.

Mandela's legacy
Speaking to journalists near the runway, he expressed sadness at the death of his friend of 67 years.

He spoke about the love Mandela had for his hometown of Qunu, where he would be buried on Sunday.

"This was the place where people around would come and see him without an appointment. They would talk about stick fighting and laugh," he said.

Bizos said the scenes around the country of people singing and dancing were in celebration of Mandela's legacy. – 

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