South Africa mourns Sisulu, the ANC's 'heroically humble' giant

Click to follow

Tens of thousands of dancing and singing South Africans jammed a soccer stadium yesterday for the state funeral of Walter Sisulu, the "heroically humble" giant of the fight against apartheid.

"The African colossus that lies in front of us might have fallen, but he has not died," said President Thabo Mbeki, who declared that Mr Sisulu's memory would live for ever.

Since his death on 5 May at the age of 90, Mr Sisulu, who spent decades in apartheid prisons, has been hailed as the moral centre of the African National Congress's struggle for liberation. He was mourned in services across the country, world leaders sent their condolences, and flags across South Africa were lowered to half-mast. The government voted to honour him with a state funeral.

"After a life so exemplary, so inspiring ... we are filled with deep thankfulness," Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in his eulogy. "We have come to celebrate a wonderful life poured out so unselfishly on behalf of others." Calling Mr Sisulu "heroically humble", he said he found it ironic that a man considered public enemy No 2 in the apartheid era was now being mourned by tens of thousands.

Hours before the hearse arrived at Orlando Stadium in the black township of Soweto, thousands danced in the stands and sang old ANC liberation songs. Meanwhile, the white hearse carrying Mr Sisulu's coffin, draped in a South African flag, travelled slowly from his Soweto home to the stadium. Mourners lined the route, raising their fists in the air and singing the traditional mourning song of the guerrilla wing of the ANC.

When the hearse entered the stadium, the mourners fell silent and stood as a guard of honour presented arms.

One of Mr Sisulu's grandchildren read a statement from his wife, Albertina, asking: "Walter, what do I do now without you? You for whom I wake up every morning. You for whom I lived."