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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.
Mandela speaks
In his first interview, the ANC leader talks about the need for flexibility.
Mandela speaks
Mandela speaks

Nelson Mandela said yesterday that he was willing to be flexible over fundamental issues -- even minority rights. Interviewed at his Soweto home, the 71-year-old African National Congress patriarch told the Weekly Mail there was no such thing as a "non-negotiable" issue.

"Once you say this particular issue is not negotiable, you are destroying the whole process of negotiation. If you are not prepared to compromise, then you must not enter into or think about the process of negotiation at all."

Asked if the issue of minority rights was negotiable, Mandela stressed that in referring to
"Compromises", he meant on "fundamental issues". "Insignificant things, peripheral issues, they don't need any compromise," he said.

"You need a compromise on fundamental issues. What those issues will be, and the extent of the compromise, will depend on the type of demand over which a compromise is required.

"Mandela relaxed, chatted and joked freely during the wide- ranging interview in the lounge of the home he has returned to after more than a quarter of a century's absence. He relished the opportunity of talking "face to face" with representatives of the 'alternative press”, he said, and made a point of greeting each of his questioners individually.

Discarding his suit jacket and pull-over before settling down on the sofa, he answered questions about his famous interest in boxing ("I stopped boxing before I went to prison - there was no opportunity for that type of thing -- but I still follow it") and lamented the fact that he needed his glasses -- "otherwise I won't be able to see".

Perhaps due to the relative informality of the interview, Mandela's famous charisma was allowed to emerge. At one point he chastised his questioners with an impish smile: "Why are you so serious? Why are you not laughing?”

Then, against the backdrop of a house filled with welcoming flowers and telegrams front all over the world, he returned to the business at hand. Despite having been in constant demand since the early hours of the morning, Mandela showed no signs of fatigue, nor impatience at the constant barrage of questions.

Mandela was conciliatory towards activists in the rival black consciousness camp, and said he believed there was a good chance of putting an end to Natal bloodshed.

He was clearly touched that representatives of the Azanian People's Organisation had visited the Vilakazi Street home that morning to pay their respects: 'We worked with Azapo and the Black Consciousness Movement very well in fighting prison conditions," he said, 'and in the course of those struggles very powerful friendships and solidarity were established.

"If I am allowed to by the national executive of the ANC," he added, " I will reciprocate their overtures," While repeatedly stressing that was "just an individual" who would assume whatever role the ANC chose to confer tol him, he said "if I have any ideas which can give fresh momentum to our efforts to unite the masses ... I will make those views known to the ANC.

"I will also hold discussions with -- other political organisations in this country,” he said. "We are not the only people committed to unity."

The 'one-sided” role of the police in the Natal conflict had vexed attempts at reconciliation, he said, but "in my view, an accord between the UDF (United Democratic Front) and its allies and Inkatha would be the first step toward resolving this issue. Because when we pool our resources, and there is every reason why we should do so, we have got a far better chance."

In contrast to his words of praise for State President FW de Klerk, Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee and Constitutional Development Minister Gerrit Viljoen, Mandela lambasted Law
and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok for "blaming the UDF and Cosatu for the trouble that is taking place in Natal” when Vlok had held meetings with only one side.

He said Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi had "played his part' in trying to resolve the issue of the Natal violence but specifically blamed the police for siding with Inkatha. Asked what his attitude was toward Afrikaners, he said it should not be necessary to ask such a question.

"For the last three years I have been negotiating with Afrikaners," he said. "I am on the record as saying that I regard Mr De Klerk as a man of integrity. And I sincerely believe in this and I believe that he himself wants to have a new chapter in the history of this country. And that the two ministers around him (Coetsee and Viljoen) complement him very well in this task.

"I have of course made the reservation that I do not know whether Mr De Klerk is able to carry the NP and Afrikaners with him. But the progress that has been made so far -- and it is quite solid progress toward negotiations -- has been made with Afrikaners. That in itself is sufficient comment on what I think of Afrikaners."

Mandela did not rule out the possibility of a future coalition between the ANC and the National Party in government, but stressed that it would be up to the ANC National Executive Committee to formulate strategies on such negotiations.

"All I have been concerned with in prison is how to get the ANC and the government to sit down and strive for a peaceful settlement" he said. "That is all. I haven't gone beyond that."

Mandela spent a large part of the interview discussing the problems of discipline and working structures within the resistance movements. The problems of black youths must be appreciated," he said, but they were aware of the need for discipline.

The banning of the Congress of South African Students in 1985 had "removed a moderating influence", he said, quoting the report of Professor Tjaart van der Walt into the 1984-85 Vaal uprisings. "He (Van der Walt) spoke as if he was Oliver Tambo," said Mandela.

"He said it was tragic to ban Cosas ... he said the African youth were far more developed than their white counterparts."Mandela said inferior education was a major part of the problem, but had no doubt "if you sit down to discuss with youth their organisations, call meetings, that they will accept any suggestion we make to".

The South African Youth Congress was working on such structures, he said, and he condemned what he described as the over-reaction to incidents of hooliganism at his Grand Parade welcoming rally on Sunday.

"You take the example of the NP youth during the time of United Party meetings -- they beat up speakers ... it is the exaggeration of whites who want to monopolise political power and who want to justify it by saying that blacks are not able to run their own affairs. "I think we will not have much difficulty if we are given the opportunity to address the youth of this country."

The ANC leader called for the establishment of popular people's structures because "those that exist today, like town councils, are discredited ... therefore there is no well-structured body in the community to be able to tackle (the problem of crime).

"Law and order is in our interests," he said, but the problem was that "although there are maybe a few policemen who are quite good, the average policeman who is in contact with blacks is regarded as an enemy".

In all earlier interview, Mandela said that without the co-operation of whites "we will have immense problems in this country and that is why we are so keen to give them guarantees that the changes we are demanding are not going to mean domination of whites by blacks.

'There are substantial numbers of whites today who feel that fundamental changes are necessary and for that reason it is necessary for us to address seriously their fears and to reason them that the changes we demand will not mean that their standards will be worsened."

Asked about his health, Mandela said it was "reasonably good" but that there were some "signs of wear and tear.”

Mandela expresses thanks to 'alternative press'
Nelson Mandela believes the "alternative press" in South Africa played a central role in bringing about the changes taking place in the country today and that it acts as a major influence on the government.

In an interview yesterday Mandela said he had made a special request to the National Reception Committee to meet members of the "alternative press", "so that I should have the opportunity of thanking you from the bottom of my heart for the stand you have taken”.

He said the perspectives put forward in the "alternative press" had "compelled the conventional press into giving publicity to the same views", and in this way had been an important influence.

"The courageous stand which you have taken is to a very large extent responsible for the changes that have taken place today. 'The alternative press has always had a direct influence on government and as a prisoner I was able to assess this very well".

The only way to flourish in the growing market of black readers in South Africa is to "reflect the ideas for which we are fighting".

Courageous journalism had played "a very valuable contribution to the struggle in this country for change and peace", he said.

Mandela expressed strong views on the need for press freedom and said the suppression of this right had been 'one of the tragedies of this country". 'Forthright views from the press are always important because a good press is a good opinion maker in any society."