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The Sussexes

Prince Harry concludes South African visit with tribute to former President Nelson Mandela

Prince Harry has concluded his seven-day tour of South Africa, paying a visit to President Jacob Zuma and issuing a fond tribute to the late former President Nelson Mandela.

The 31-year-old Prince, who began the tour last Thursday in Lesotho, started the morning at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, President Zuma’s official residence in the country’s capital, Pretoria. The President, who was joined by his wife and daughter, welcomed Harry as news broke that former paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius had been newly convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Reeve Steenkamp.

“Every time I see the news you are in a different part of the world,” remarked Harry, as he sat down with the President in front of a plethora of food and snacks.

Zuma replied: ”That’s absolutely true. I’m looking forward to finishing my term and taking a rest.”

The President, who is a controversial figure, has been married six times and currently has four wives – the fifth of whom he brought with him to meet the Prince this morning. Thobeka Mabhija married Zuma in 2010 and who is the mother of one of his 21 children.

Although his presidency has been plagued by allegations of corruption and significant legal battles, it was nothing but smiles and firm handshakes this morning as the two men discussed how Britain and South Africa  could work together to support vulnerable young people – including those with HIV and AIDS – through sport and other creative approaches.

One of the Prince’s spokespeople described their conversation as “friendly, constructive and wide-ranging” adding that Harry had actively encouraged South Africa’s efforts to halt poaching in the country.

The topic of conservation has been a recurring theme for Prince Harry’s entire trip to the region and has seen him spend time yesterday with rangers and workers in the Kruger National Park in Durban. The Prince released a number of personal photos – taken over the summer – as he worked with the same rangers to combat a rising problem in the area. He was visibly distressed at seeing the carcasses of mother rhino and her two-year-old calf, both killed for their horns, which are sought after by poachers.

After his meeting with the President, Harry took off the jacket and tie as he met with youngsters at Siyabonga Secondary School in Soweto. The Prince chatted to students about leadership and urged them to set a good example to others.

Talking to students, Harry remarked: “I would never want anyone to follow me in the bad things I do, only the good things.”

If you do something bad a lot of young people will follow. You have a responsibility to live up to your beliefs and encourage young people to follow in your footsteps.”

The youngsters – all taking part in ‘Nelson Mandela – The Champion Within’ programme – were eager to listen to the Prince as he relaxed with them on bean bags and shared smiles and jokes as they jotted down his words of wisdom in the notebooks.

Standing up to leave, Harry urged the children to persevere saying “when things get really, really hard… keep pushing forward and people will follow you.

The fifth-in-line to the throne spent the afternoon championing youth entrepreneurship and empowerment with a visit to The Bus Factory at the centre of Johannesburg’s Central Business District. The community space aims to help youngsters improve their overall business and digital skills and helps new talent to flourish.

Harry was impressed as he watched performances from young hip-hop singers, played a circuit board game and chatted to those involved in crafting and manufacturing their own clothing and fashion lines.

Fans of the Prince gathered for photos and selfies throughout his time at the centre, with Harry obliging a smile. Previously in the tour, he had said to fans that he was “anti-selfie” when asked for a snap.

Finishing his day and concluding the tour, the Prince paid a visit to the Nelson Mandela Foundation where he met with the late former President’s widow, Graça Machel. Machel, who apologised for turning up a little later than the royal, welcomed him warmly to Mandela’s former home.

Taking him by the hand, she gave the Prince a quick embrace before leading him around Mandela’s office. Saturday will mark two years since the iconic statesman’s passing on December 5, 2013.

During his audience with Machel, Harry revealed he had planting a flag at the South Pole during his Walking With The Wounded trek which is why the royal received news of Mandela’s death.

Speaking at the Centre for Memory, Harry gave a touching tribute to the former anti-apartheid President saying: “I know he is missed by a generation, a nation and most keenly by his family. However, he will never be forgotten.”

“I was fortunate enough to meet Madiba a number of years ago and I have treasured that memory ever since,” said Harry, adding “I have been keen to see how Mr. Mandela’s values and his legacy are inspiring the next generation and shaping the future for South Africa.”

The Prince also said that Mandela, known also as Madiba in the country, had been an “empowering” figure and that he had “worked tirelessly to protect everything that is special about this beautiful country for all future generations.

“I can think of no better way of ending my visit to South Africa than by joining you this evening to remember Madiba as we approach the anniversary of his passing.

I would like to end by thanking all the South Africans I have met over the last few days for their warm welcome and hospitality. I look forward to seeing you again soon.”

Following his speech, Harry was shown a selection of images and photos from across the years involving Mandela – one of which was a picture of him with his mother, Diana.

The Prince paused in reflection for a few moments, remarking: “Happy smiles, big smiles.” The photograph was taken in Cape Town just before the Princess’s death in Paris.

In a week of touching and eye-opening moments for both Harry and those who follow his engagements, he has shown the caring side which many have come to associate with the Prince. He will head back to UK on Thursday evening

Prince Harry’s full speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation – along with speeches from throughout his time in South Africa – can be found on his official website.

About author

James is Royal Central's Director of Broadcasting and Communications. He's a recognised royal commentator and correspondent and has experience with numerous TV and radio networks including the BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN and MSNBC among others.