Great mentor still bringing people together even in death

US First Lady Michelle Obama with Nelson Mandela at this home in Houghton, South Africa.
US First Lady Michelle Obama with Nelson Mandela at this home in Houghton, South Africa.
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FROM political leaders to the Spice Girls he was the man who had the power to bring the world together.

And he did so again as the announcement of his death united the world in an outpouring of grief at his passing and celebration of a life of unparalleled impact.

LIVEBLOG: Mandela tributes and memorial

Tributes to one of the great icons of the 20th century inundated social media networks after news of his death broke. Within five hours, an incredible 7.2 million tweets were posted, with a peak of 95,000 per minute.

As a president and an ambassador for his country he met people from all walks of life and countries, from politicians and members of the Royal Family to sportsmen, actors and musicians and made an impact on them all.

And that was reflected in the shear breadth of reaction to his passing.

David Beckham, who met Mr Mandela in 2003 before taking to the football field as the England captain for a friendly match against South Africa, posted a photograph of the occasion on his Facebook page on hearing the news of Mr Mandela’s death.

In tribute, Beckham wrote: “My heart goes out to the people in South Africa and Mr Mandela’s family. We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being. It was truly an honour to have known a man who had genuine love for so many people. Rest in peace.”

There was a special place in Mr Mandela’s heart for Bono, the frontman of the band U2.

The singer and his bandmates performed at a concert in Cape Town in 2003 for the ‘46664’ campaign – named after the number Mr Mandela wore during his incarceration on Robben Island.

The singer wrote: “As an activist, I have pretty much been doing what Nelson Mandela tells me since I was a teenager.

“He has been a forceful presence in my life going back to 1979, when U2 made its first anti-apartheid effort.

“Over the years we became friends. I, like everyone else, was mesmerised by his deft manoeuvring as leader of South Africa.”

He questions whether, without Mr Mandela’s leadership, the world would have increased the number of people on Aids medication to 9.7 million and decreased child deaths by 2.7m a year.”

Model Naomi Campbell said it would “take time to come to terms with his absence”.

She said: “Nelson Mandela has stood as a figure of strength, hope, freedom, selflessness and love, and I join everyone across the world in mourning his passing. However, he was much more than just a figurehead to me – he was my mentor, my honorary grandfather, my Tata.

“Since meeting him in 1993, he’s guided me and gave me a reason for being in the tough times of my life. He changed my perception of the world.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown hinted at the human touch that helped Mr Mandela connect with people as he recalled a call from the great statesman congratulating him on the birth of his son.

And Tony Blair revealed how Mr Mandela was able to maintain personal relationships even when he held a different view on an issue such as the Iraq war.

“As a leader, he was just a huge inspiration. I remember when we started our own peace process in Northern Ireland, he was such an example for reconciliation, forgiveness, the ability to put the past behind you.

“I think for a lot of people in Western countries, he made racism seem somehow stupid and old-fashioned and irrelevant, as well as, wrong.

“He had that quality because his greatness as a leader was so obvious, he just stood frankly taller than anyone else.”

LIVEBLOG: Mandela tributes and memorial