Ki-moon delivers touching Madiba tribute

The UN chief gave Mandela a send-off in a number of languages, including isiZulu.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 9 December 2013. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said he will never forget the words of encouragement that former president Nelson Mandela offered every time they met.

He was speaking at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton in northern Johannesburg.

The UN chief described Madiba as a man of honour and integrity.

"The world mourns the loss of Mandela, one of the towering figures of our time and indeed of any time. He was a giant for justice, equality and human rights. He touched our lives so deeply."

Ki-Moon says Mandela's words of wisdom will always play in his mind.

He told delegates he was devastated when he heard the news that such a great man had died.

Mandela died at his Johannesburg home at the age of 95 on Thursday evening.

Ki-Moon says he still feels as though a huge part of his life has been taken away because he knew he could always call Tata whenever he needed an ear to listen to him.

The UN Secretary General spoke for no more than five minutes.

He ended his address by giving Madiba a send-off in a number of languages, including isiZulu, saying, "Lala ngoxolo, Tata_," _meaning rest in peace, Tata.

Delegates were deeply affected by the words.

Meanwhile, a massive number of global leaders have arrived or are en route to South Africa to participate in the various events taking place this week.

The gathering of presidents, prime ministers and royalty is being described as unprecedented and historic.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says the numbers keep changing, but at least 91 heads of state have now confirmed their attendance.

There are also at least 10 former heads of state, 75 dignitaries and 86 delegations being led by ministers.

To see which countries are sending their leaders to South Africa to honour Mandela, use this Eyewitness News interactive map. Zoom in and hover over the countries with your mouse.