Tutu: Madiba taught us valuable lessons

The archbishop says Nelson Mandela taught SA valuable lessons in forgiveness and reconciliation.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu leads a service at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town on 6 December 2013. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Former president Nelson Mandela taught South Africans valuable lessons in forgiveness and reconciliation, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said on Friday.

He urged people to put those principles into practice and help realise Madiba's dream of a united South Africa.

Madiba passed away peacefully at his Houghton home in Johannesburg just before 9pm on Thursday.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate addressed the media at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) auditorium in Cape Town this afternoon.

A visibly tired and emotional Tutu described Mandela as an angry young man when he went to prison only to emerge 27 years later as an icon of compassion and forgiveness.

"A unifier from the moment he walked out of prison. He taught us extraordinary practical lessons about forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation."

Tutu says South Africans owe it to themselves and to Mandela's legacy to mourn his passing with dignity and respect.

Meanwhile, Capetonians have come out in their numbers to attend a special interfaith service hosted in honour of Mandela.

Pensioner Judy Waverly spent the last six hours at the Grand Parade.

The 83-year-old travelled alone by train from Parow so that she could pay her last respects to the global icon.

She says even though she has never met him, she loved Madiba and confessed that she always had a soft spot for him in her heart.

Waverly says the statesman has left behind a great legacy and adds he plays a huge role in making South Africans proud of their country.

Some Port Elizabeth residents have ended their day by coming to commemorate Mandela at a statue at the Donkin Reserve.

The reserve is home to the biggest South African flag in the world with the tallest flagpole.

An open field is a few metres away from a commemorative statue of the statesman.

At its feet there are several flowers and a wounded cross placed by those who came to pay their respects.

The massive South African flag is flying at half-mast in commemoration of South Africa's first democratically elected president.