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ANC: Madiba made us a proud nation

The ruling party honoured former president Nelson Mandela in front of thousands of supporters.

ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses thousands of the party’s supporters at the Standard Bank Arena during a prayer service honouring Nelson Mandela, 8 December 2013. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday told thousands of supporters gathered for the party's prayer rally that Nelson Mandela made South Africa a proud nation.

He made the comments at the Standard Bank Arena in central Johannesburg.

Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president, died in Johannesburg on Thursday night.

The rally was held as part of the country's national day or prayer and reflection.

Thousands of ANC supporters gathered at the Standard Bank Arena for the service. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

Ramaphosa says Madiba would have been proud of the way people united in his memory.

"Nelson Mandela would have been very proud to hear you sing as you have been singing and to hear you celebrate his life. This is what Nelson Mandela would have wanted."

Ramaphosa says Mandela prepared the nation and the world for his death when he spent nearly four months in a Pretoria hospital earlier this year.

"His plan was to prepare us as South Africans so that we get used to the idea that he will leave us and indeed, when he left us, we immediately realised what he was doing."

The deputy ANC president also called on supporters to pray for Madiba as he makes his journey to heaven so he would be able to join the nearest ANC branch in the afterlife.

Ramaphosa added South Africans should walk tall and take pride in his legacy.

He says Mandela left South Africans with the most precious gifts that a president can give to his people.

"He gave us our dignity, he gave us our freedom and he gave us transformation. We walk tall - we walk nearly as tall as Nelson Mandela."

A Hare Krishna group sings for the crowd. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

ANC Gauteng leader Paul Mashatile also addressed the rally, conveying his condolences to the Mandela family.

He quoted the Apostle Paul from the Bible.

"I have run a good race and I have finished the race. Those are the words that must comfort you."

Mashatile then told the crowd it is now up to South Africans to pick up the baton and continue the race.

"The race is now with me and you. We must now run the race. Tata Mandela has done his part. Today, we are free. We are a free people united in our diversity."

Traditional leaders address the crowd. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.