President Jacob Zuma says South Africans will continue on the path set by Nelson Mandela and succeed in building the country Madiba dreamed of. Speaking at Mandela’s funeral service in Qunu, which was attended by heads of state including Malawian President Joyce Banda and her Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete, Zuma paid tribute to South Africa’s first democratic head of state, saying he was “an extraordinary human being”. He said the funeral marked the end of 95 years of Mandela’s life as a “fountain of wisdom, pillar of strength and a beacon of hope to all those fighting for a just and equitable world order”. “When you were critically ill last year, we were gripped with fear and anxiety. We did not want to confront the reality of your mortality. “Over the past nine days of mourning, people have expressed their grief in various ways. What truly stands out, is the particular display of admiration by the thousands who descended upon the Union Buildings to spend just one moment with you, as you lay in state,” Zuma said. “As we observed the long patient queues lining the streets of the Union Buildings ... we asked ourselves, what is it about this man that elicits this outpouring of sincere emotion? “The answer is that when people see goodness in a person, they respond by reflecting the goodness back at that person, and on their fellow men and women,” Zuma said. Zuma said South Africans owed it to those who died for freedom to take Mandela’s vision of a better life for all forward. “One thing we can assure you of today Tata, as you take your final steps, is that South Africa will continue to rise. “Your abiding revolutionary spirit will prevail on us to not rest, until the poor and the working class have truly benefited from the material fruits of freedom and democracy which you fought for. Therefore, today we undertake to take forward your promotion of an improved quality of life for all,” Zuma said. Banda, who spoke on behalf of the Southern African Development Communtity (SADC), said she met Mandela a few times and that some of his leadership attributes had influenced her own life. She said she forgave those who had attempted to assassinate her before she became president of Malawi. “I learnt that leadership is about people falling in love with you, and you falling in love with the people. It’s about putting the common good before oneself.” She also paid tribute to Graça Machel for caring for Mandela during his life, and praised Winnie Madikizela-Mandela for being at the forefront of the liberation struggle. Kikwete spoke about the ties between South Africa and Tanzania that date back from the time Nelson Mandela met the late Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere to seek material help for the armed struggle. The ANC subsequently set up bases in that country. “This mission was to later become a landmark event which was to change the course of history, culminating in the end of apartheid,” he said. Nyerere’s widow, Maria, was one of those attending the funeral, as was the widow of the Tanzanian minister who housed Mandela at the time of his first visit to that country.