The world pays tribute to Mandela (slideshow)
As South Africans come to terms with the loss of former president Nelson Mandela, the rest of the world bids farewell to Madiba.

Pimples: Saving Madiba's rabbit (video)
Gwede, Mac and Blade try their best to stop the rabbit from whispering in Mandela's ear. But the elusive animal has some tricks up its sleeve.

Zapiro's best Madiba cartoons (slideshow)
From his toughest moments to his most triumphant, Madiba has been an inspiration. Here are some of our favourite Zapiro cartoons about him from 1994 to 2013.

Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
True confessions of a ruthless propagandist
Howard Barrell tells how he went off in search of Nelson Mandela's freedom and nearly lost his life.

It all started about six weeks ago on a dark and stormy night. One of the few really good contacts I have was walking me back to my motorcycle.

"You've heard, of course, that Pik recently asked Samora to ask Kaunda what Zambia's attitude would be if Pretoria just put Mandela on a plane and flew him out to Tambo in Lusaka? Would Kaunda accept him? "Kaunda said naturally Mandela would be welcome," my source said.

I had not heard it. "Watch the story. The government has decided to release Mandela. It's only a question of mechanics now." Pik Botha, according to one political correspondent, is the kind of man whose words have to be carefully processed. What one Botha says is not necessarily what that Botha means or what another Botha does.

But my source was adamant. This was not Botha posturing. He is, I have every reason to believe, well placed to judge. At that stage, the information was, however, off the record. Kaunda must have told the ANC. I spent the next four weeks harassing ANC chief spokesman Tom Sebina, who would say nothing.

A few weeks later, Mandela was booked in to Cape Town's Volkshospitaal for prostate surgery. It's now history that he was kept at the hospital a good week longer than was medically required. The small complication which developed after the operation was quickly dealt with. By Saturday, November 16, at least, he was medically fit and ready to return to Pollsmoor. Why was he still in hospital?

Was it that the government saw an easy way of releasing him -- on compassionate grounds, without first requiring him to renounce violence? Journalists noted an article in a respectable journal which had, apparently gratuitously, suggested the government might consider just flying him out to Lusaka.

My source contacted me again. The stakes were now much higher than the release of Mandela alone. There were signals passing from the top levels of the South African government to the exiled leadership of the ANC. Again, off the record. But he suggested I contact so-and-so for more details. So-and-so confirmed the details, but also off the record.

Meanwhile, the air charter business in the subcontinent was being lifted from the doldrums. On Thursday and Friday last week, journalists had three charters on standby in Harare, a few more in Johannesburg and at least one in Nairobi. The picture would be Mandela's as he walked off the plane. The story would be his first words. The competition would be for the first interview.

On Friday afternoon, after a raid on the duty-free, when we were travelling at about 350km/h at about 8 000 feet, there was a massive explosion in our eight-seater Piper Navajo. Half the door had blown out.

Alexander Joe, the photographer sitting alongside the door, it was said, turned white. Former Sunday Express journalist Peta Thornycroft, who had earlier insisted on broadcasting the merits of a book on the world's 100 worst air disasters, popped another valium. The WTN crew turned their camera on our intrepid hero, Joe, leaning out of the aircraft to pull the door back on its hinges -- just in case the flight recorder could not later explain our cause of death.

Was this Pretoria sabotaging us? "Mandela better bloody give us the works if we and he get there," someone shouted above the roar of the wind in the cabin. Emergency landing at an airport. The door latch had malfunctioned. Should we hitch back to Harare, or continue to Lusaka, according to a friend. We continued. Lusaka Airport at 3pm, and the BBC News said there were still no concrete signs Mandela was about to be released.

We phoned the ANC from airport immigration: also, no hard information. The others remained, and I flew back to Harare on the same charter, after a personal check on the door. Late that weekend, one of my earlier sources contacted me again. He was now prepared to release a few details for publication.

The gist was: the South African government, from the top level, had told the ANC that it now acknowledged that it alone could not solve the developing crisis; it had decided to release all political prisoners but was having difficulties with the formula; Mandela was signalling he would negotiate only within the aegis of the ANC and the "democratic movement".

I managed to contact a top ANC official. "If you speak to Sebina, he will refuse to confirm or deny. I am prepared to speak to you unofficially and hypothetically only. "If we were to get signals from the government we would not be convinced of the government's seriousness without action from them.

"If they want to create an atmosphere conducive to talks about talks, they must unconditionally release all political prisoners, lift the State of Emergency and release detainees, withdraw troops from the townships and immediately terminate treason trials.

"We would then insist, as a matter of principal, on an opportunity to consult fully with Nelson Mandela and others who are now in prison, as well as the legal democratic movement, before entering any talks with the government," he said.

A source inside the country who, I understood by this stage, to be close to the transmissions, said my details of the signals were correct. Sebina: "I will not confirm or deny." So I went for the BBC and other publications on Monday: the government was sending signals to the ANC.

Louis Nel damned these and similar reports. They were the work of ruthless propagandists of Moscow, he said. If I were Russian, I'd say the stories were "pravda". Given that I'm English, I'II say they were the truth. They certainly are as near as dammit as anyone had got to the facts - whatever the man now charged with controlling information about the townships had to say.