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Nelson Mandela Memorial

Aired December 10, 2013 - 06:00   ET


BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: That was his unique gift and that was a lesson he shared with all human kind. He has done it again. Look around the stadium. We see those representing many points of view and people from all walks of life. All are here. All are united today. He left deep roots that reach across the world.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, as we listen to Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. secretary general praising Nelson Mandela, we want to welcome our viewers back from around the United States and around the world. I'm Chris Cuomo, joined by Christiane Amanpour and Robyn Curnow. We've been watching the coverage here this morning.

We just had the grandchildren come up, huge applause and the crowd erupted for them. Then maybe the moment of the morning so far in terms of crowd recognition, when President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama came on the screen. What did you think of that?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's to be expected. It's the first black presence in America and Mandela was the first black presence here in South Africa. Many feel like there's a connection between their stories. Barack Obama himself said he was inspired by Mandela's leadership. Of course, they never met.

When Obama was president and Mandela was president, they didn't meet while he was president, but Obama has met him back in 2005. We'll keep listening to Ban Ki-Moon who's talked about the rainbow nation, justice and got massive applause, the respect these leaders are paying to the people of South Africa.

KI-MOON: I hope it continues in tolerance and for prosperity and peace. Nelson Mandela showed us a way with a heart larger than this stadium and an infectious smile that as powerful as light. Nelson Mandela is at rest. Let us now be guided and inspired by the spirit he gave all of us, the flame of human rights, the beaker of hope. Nelson Mandela fought throughout his life for each and every one of us. It is the duty of all of us who loved him to keep his memory alive in our hearts and to embody his example in our lives. (inaudible) May he rest in peace. Thank you. Thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right, we just heard from the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon. He hit several important themes for the South African people and some of them were, of course, the rainbow nation, hoping someday the dream is realized as a rainbow world and pointing out that Nelson Mandela said he wasn't just one man. The crowd loved that, of course.

We are waiting for the U.S. President Barack Obama. He is supposed to be speaking upcoming. Right now, we have Jim Acosta with us. You came with the president, obviously.


CUOMO: What did you see in terms of security in the process of getting here? What was it like?

ACOSTA: Lots of security, Chris. There's no better way to get to a stadium than a presidential motorcade. When the president arrived in Johannesburg and tried to make the trip into the middle of the city, there was a lot of traffic. He even got stuck in traffic at one point. There were people taking pictures of his motorcade, tweeting out the pictures of the president stuck in traffic, heading into Johannesburg.

Senior administration officials have told us about this speech, Nelson Mandela means a lot to this president. He's talked about this before. He described him as a hero, but really the president had not really been working on his remarks for what he's going to be saying today until after it was confirmed that Nelson Mandela had passed away.

So he's been working on this over the weekend and on Air Force One, doing that, while he had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush on Air Force One with him.

CUOMO: Every once in a while here in the stadium, they show pictures of who is in the crowd. Former President Clinton was just seen. You heard the crowd react. It's a special thing about this occasion at Nelson Mandela's memorial is that you have regular people mixing in one place with some of the most important people in the world, Christiane. It is so unusual on that level.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very unusual. A huge crowd as we said and a huge applause for the obvious, you know, President Obama and Ban Ki-Moon, it's extraordinary to see the huge applause for Robert Mugabe. He was a great liberation leader. He obviously overstayed his almost by decades but nonetheless, he was one of the original to cast off the mantle of white oppression.

People here don't forget that. Sometimes that's difficult for people in the west to get their heads around. We see them as dictators. Raul Castro, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe. Bill Clinton is here and he's had a very, and then behind him also George W. Bush.

CURNOW: Even though the world and especially Africa hated Iraq and the rest of it, they loved what he did with the amount of money George Bush pledged for combating AIDS in this country.

CUOMO: You recently interviewed former President Bush about that here in Africa.

CURNOW: I did. During that interview, I think there is a sense that Africans do feel a sense of thankfulness for what appreciate did for HIV/AIDS and anti-retroviral drugs. I did put it to him, about Mandela's force criticism and Tony Blair, ahead of the Iraq War. He called George Bush a president who can't think properly. When I put it to President Bush that he had been fiercely criticized, president bush in his very president bush kind of way shrugged it off and said he wasn't the only one. I think there is a general sort of acceptance that Mandela was fiercely critical of many people. He could because he was Mandela. But there was still the innate sense of respect for him.

CUOMO: An unusual combination especially for a politician to have that, people respect even when they disagree. Rick Stengel, you're joining us as well. You knew Nelson Mandela so well, working on the autobiography and others as well. What do you make though in terms of perspective of having the coordination of so many leaders, so many of them with rivalries all in one place?

RICK STENGEL: Let's face it, Chris, Nelson Mandela is today South Africa's greatest export. It's what people know about the country, its brand South Africa. I think the South African government is exploiting that in a positive way because they want people to have a positive impression of South Africa. This is the world cup for them. But with Nelson Mandela as the centerpiece and so far they seem to be doing it pretty well.

CUOMO: Rick, I appreciate the point. It's true. So much to coordinate here and obviously never losing sight of what it really is, about Nelson Mandela, and the memorial, some beautiful singing going on right now that we'd like you to listen to. Listen to this.

CURNOW: One of South Africa's most famous songstresses, really, quietly making this crowd pay attention to the words of what she is singing. I think the resonance it's filling the stadium with is quite spiritual.

CUOMO: It really is. It's helping to really emphasize the mood here. You can basically make out on your screen, you see the rain. It's a misting here. It's not as heavy as it was before. Not as heavy as it was before. It has meaning in this country. When the heavens open up, there's obvious symbolism there. This crowd is different. There are echoes of song that are unusual that we're hearing here on every level of this massive stadium. You're hearing it now as well.

DR. NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA, COMMISSION CHAIR, AFRICAN UNION: On behalf of the commission, the director, the Mandela family, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, the president of the republic.

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA: Long live Nelson Mandela, long live. Long live, Nelson Mandela, long live. Can we appeal for those behind the stage to please tone down their singing? Those behind the stage, please tone down your singing as our guest is now on the stage.

DLAMINI ZUMA: Thank you, program director. His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, your majesties, your highnesses, excellencies, heads of state and government, ministers, leaders of communication.

CUOMO: We're listening to Dr. Zuma right now. She was a very important figure within Mandela's cabinet, obviously. She was also one of the first women to hold a post like this. There is so much celebration going on among the crowd that he asked them to quiet down before this address. We are listening in here but also waiting for U.S. President Barack Obama. He's supposed to be the next speaker up here at the Nelson Mandela Memorial.

And that was important, I think, that he made this point to crowd because this is a memorial and it is a solemn occasion, but there really is an unusual spirit of jubilation here because of what Nelson Mandela meant. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll be waiting for the United States president to address this crowd at the Nelson Mandela Memorial here in South Africa. Stay with us.


CUOMO: Welcome back to our coverage of the Nelson Mandela memorial. We are waiting for the United States president to come and address the crowd. This has been such a unique spirit filling this massive stadium here, the First National Bank Stadium, soccer city.

This is a celebration you have to say that. The crowd at every level has been singing. There's been chanting here. It's been quite an occasion already.

AMANPOUR: That's exactly right. You know, it's interesting, because it's obviously not completely full. There has been the rain. There have been issues with the transport.

CURNOW: There's Barack Obama again with his wife, Michelle.

AMANPOUR: There they are again. We saw that picture when it was shown live. It got a huge cheer. Obama has come with former President George Bush and former President Carter and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. We also saw pictures of Bill Clinton, the former president. He came separately.

Interestingly, of course, Chelsea Clinton is there, too. It always reminds me of the famous story that Bill Clinton tells back in 1990 when Mandela was being freed, he was in Arkansas and says that he ran to wake up Chelsea and said you must watch this. This is probably the most important thing you're going to see that will happen in your lifetime, this freeing of Nelson Mandela and the leading to democratic rule here in South Africa.

CUOMO: And, Robyn, you were seeing that Nelson Mandela had become counsel for President Clinton during some of his travails.

CURNOW: They were presidents at the same time. President Clinton, when I spoke to him last year outside Mandela's house on his 94th birthday was grateful for the counsel he received from Mandela. Obviously, he was under a lot of fire, particularly during the Lewinsky scandal.

And he would often have these late-night conversations with Mandela and he really took comfort from the fact that someone like Nelson Mandela wasn't judging him and was trying to help him make it through this and trying to make him a better man as well. And I think when you talk to Clinton, he has -- you get a sense that Clinton sort of saw him as a personal preacher or psychologist.

But when Clinton talks about those late-night phone calls, America with the time difference it was often 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning when he was phoning Mandela during the daytime. He said Mandela every time would ask about Chelsea and often he would say, go and get Chelsea.

They'd go and get Chelsea and he'd talk to her about her home work and Clinton made a point of saying this is also why Mandela was key, because he always remembered people's families, the name of your wife. He had a deep regard for people's family situations. And he -- that spoke to a lot of the kind of man he was.

CUOMO: Dr. Zuma, who is -- we're listening to right now, she's repeating some themes we've heard that Mandela brought out the best in all of us and she would know. She was a member of his cabinet. But she's also the first woman to lead the African Union. She's important to the people here as well.

And that theme, if we can bring in Rick Stengel, the idea of Nelson Mandela as a uniter, it does not escape notice that there are many leaders here today who may not choose to be together ordinarily, notably President Obama is going to speak, several speakers later, Raul Castro from Cuba.

What does that say about what Nelson Mandela's legacy means to the men and women in this room today no matter what their position, Rick?

RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, Chris, as you are suggesting, he's bringing together people even after his own death, rivals who would not probably have collaborated or even been in the same room under other circumstances.

That was, I think, his signal and greatest achievement, that he averted a civil war in South Africa by reconciling white and black, reconciling with his own oppressors, looking past what had been done to him and his people and trying to forge this new multiracial democratic rainbow nation. He did that by not really forgetting the past but certainly forgiving the people and realizing that South Africa only worked if everybody put their shoulders to the wheel, white, black and brown. It's an extraordinary achievement.

CUOMO: Christiane, how do we help understand what Mandela that made him special, that allowed him to disagree with your policy strenuously, without mincing any words and yet still maintained relationships.

AMANPOUR: You know, he did that with these foreign leaders we've been talking about. He got many people upset by keeping friendships with Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, the Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi, because those people stuck with him.

But it really goes back to what he did to get over the hatred and the terrible appalling crimes really of the apartheid regime. If he could forgive and understand the story of the other when it came to the white oppressors of the apartheid regime, then he could certainly do it with the other leaders of those who stood behind him, through all those decades of oppression and incarcerations. And that is what he's all about. That's why people venerate him because of the act of political and personal forgiveness.

And it is an act that absolutely vital for any kind of complete resolution and any kind of peacemaking. And very important conflicts have been resolved, for instance, the Northern Ireland conflict, for instance, others, which have taken a lot of their inspiration from Mandela.

CURNOW: I think I can add to that. One example Christiane and I were talking about it when we were off air -- he used these different leaders and his relationship with these people for diplomacy, world diplomacy.

Take the Lockerbie bombing, for example. There was huge pressure on Moammar Gadhafi to hand over the suspects. He wouldn't do it.

Mandela flew to Libya, convinced him to hand over the suspects as long as it was on a neutral country. He got the Saudis to negotiate a Scottish trial in the Netherlands, at the same time offering for the United Nations to take down sanctions. So, he really was able to bring together all these different strands and this sort of master stroke of diplomacy was based on these relationships that he had.

CUOMO: And today he has brought over 100 dignitaries, leaders, past and present, some political rivals within their own countries, sitting side by side, here joining this crowd that has been here for hours and hours. The line started last night to be here. So it really is everybody coming together in terms of the ideals and message that Nelson Mandela embodied. And that's probably the best tribute for someone who wanted to be remembered for the message.

Now, John King, you're joining us back in the States. When you think about that, the ability of what Robyn was just saying, of a man from South Africa to get the Netherlands, together with Scotland in an international affair and speak to leaders no matter where they were, whether critical or not and maintain respect, how unique does that make Nelson Mandela as a politician, let alone as a leader?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he's one of the few singular figures of the 20th century, in terms of what he did. The awe people felt for what he did, the power of forgiveness, the power of unification, the ability to bring the country together, to have a peaceful election and then to have an administration where he delivered on his promises with no recrimination.

Other politicians hold that in awe of his personal strength and then his political abilities.

And so, yes, I remember at the beginning, I was at the Mandela inauguration. You had the same scene. You had Fidel Castro in pretty good health. I remember walking by him in the hall that day.

You had Gadhafi. You had a lot of the African leaders that the United States would consider rogues. And yet, they were all at once at the inauguration and there they are today to say their farewells. It is the singular power of a unique figure in history. This does not happen. Just look at this scene. There have been many great leaders in history from all around the world.

But this just does not happen. You are in the middle of a rare and unique event because of the power of the power, the singular power, of this man.

CUOMO: And also, I think it's another musical interlude going on now here at the memorial. We are looking obviously at former Bush, below him, former President Clinton -- former President Bush, former President Clinton, and former President Clinton joined by his wife Hillary, the former secretary of state, and daughter Chelsea.

They're here, former President Bush and his wife, Laura there as well. There's been music mixed into the memorial since before it began. Music was the first thing we heard this morning. Most of it coming from the crowd, but then as soon as they got the sound system up and going, we heard it, we're hearing it now.

You know what's so key about this, when you look at all of these leaders, just imagine the South African authorities trying to liaise with the security detail of 91 heads of state.

CUOMO: President Obama is approaching the podium now. He's the next speaker up. That's what we're waiting on.

Now, there have been a lot of questions raised about security here and before I came on, we were talking around and talking to security officials.

AMANPOUR: Castro, he's shaking hands with Raul Castro.

CUOMO: As Christiane points out, President Obama just shook hands with Raul Castro from Cuba.

AMANPOUR: Dilma Rousseff from Brazil.

CUOMO: What does this say?

AMANPOUR: It says this is a moment of re reconciliation for Mandela. And President Obama is doing the diplomatic thing. He's not just going to walk by and ignore these people who are there. And they're all in a line. He's kissing now the U.N. secretary general, President Zuma.

This is a man, it is so true, who brought people together in life and he continues to bring people together today. He continues to bring people together in death.

He's greeting President de Klerk, the last white president of south Africa. They won a Peace Prize together.

CUOMO: John King, I don't know if you just saw it, President Obama just shook hands with Raul Castro, former leader de Klerk and others as he came up. What does that mean politically? Is it just about the moment? Does that satisfy the interest of respect? How do you think it plays politically?

KING: I think what the president will say is the conversation you're just having. That this was -- this is a moment of reconciliation. It's a moment of tribute to a great man. It was not a time to make a political statement. So, you shake hands out of respect for the moment and move on.

No doubt about it, there's also been criticism back here of some Republicans who have said nice things about Mandela. There's been a Twitter conversation and other conversation about he was a communist or he was socialist. How can you say nice things about him?

That's silly season. That should just be set aside. You can have political differences with the policies of Nelson Mandela, and still recognize his greatness as a man and for what he did to bring down the apartheid regime?

Will President Obama get some criticism for that brief hand shake? Yes, he will. It comes with the territory, I guess.

But I remember at the inauguration, Al Gore went out of his way, the vice president was leading the U.S. delegation. He literally ducked his way behind aides and ducked his way into doors to avoid Fidel Castro.

But inauguration is different from a memorial service. Raul Castro was right there. I would say the president of the United States really didn't have much of a choice. Had he lingered a long time, he might have started a bigger rile than he was going to have. But make no doubt about it, you understand politics. Somebody will decide that was a horrible thing.

I think the president was showing respect for the moment.

AMANPOUR: And President Obama couldn't be getting a better warm up act.

CUOMO: I know.

AMANPOUR: Look at this, the whole crowd I is --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Johannesburg, my life is in your hands. My life is in your hands Joburg (ph), my life is in your hands. My life is in your hands --

CUOMO: That was American gospel singer Kirk Franklin who just brought this stadium to its feet. The South African crowd dominantly was just going crazy to the stylings of Kirk Franklin.

CURNOW: Wonderful. Just a sense like we're in the middle of half a party but it's a funeral, it's a memorial service. It's something extraordinary.

AMANPOUR: Let's listen. This truly is what today is about, this moment captured the joy.

BALEKA MBETE, SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICIAN: Our very son of the African soil, President Barack Obama.