Albertina Sisulu funeral held in South Africa

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Media captionPresident Jacob Zuma attended the funeral and paid tribute to Albertina Sisulu

Thousands of South Africans have attended the funeral of one of the leading figures of the anti-apartheid movement, Albertina Sisulu.

In a message read to the mourners, former president Nelson Mandela paid tribute to her as "one of the greatest South Africans".

Mrs Sisulu was active in the woman's league of the African National Congress and was married to Walter Sisulu, who brought Nelson Mandela into the ANC.

She died last week at the age of 92.

President Jacob Zuma called her a "national heroine" who had mentored many of South Africa's political and business leaders.

He had declared an official funeral with military honours.

Senior generals carried Mrs Sisulu's coffin into the 40,000-seat Orlando Stadium in Soweto, the township outside Johannesburg that became synonymous with the struggle against apartheid.

Delivering the eulogy, Mr Zuma said: "An era has ended and the nation is devastated but we are proud to be associated with Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu.

"We are laying to rest a stalwart, a mother of the nation who combined resilience and fortitude in fighting colonial oppression and apartheid with compassion for the poor and the downtrodden," he said.

"Many of today's senior leaders in government, politics and business matured under her guidance, care and love."

'Beloved sister'

Mr Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, read a statement on behalf of the former president, 92, who is increasingly frail and rarely makes public appearances.

In his condolence message he called her "one of the greatest South Africans".

Image caption Albertina kept her family together while Walter was in prison for 26 years

He acknowledged that most of his generation of anti-apartheid fighters had now passed away.

"The years have taken the toll as one by one friends and comrades passed on. Every time it seems as part of oneself is being cut off," he said. ,

"None of those cuts could have been more painful than the loss of this dear friend, you, my beloved sister."

Mr Mandela was the best man at the wedding of Albertina and Walter Sisulu.

Mr Sisulu was later arrested and spent 25 years in prison with Mr Mandela.

While her husband was confined to jail, Mrs Sisulu found herself subject to periods of house arrest for her own activities.

She trained as a nurse but established herself as an anti-apartheid activist and was among those who in 1956 led a march of 20,000 women protesting at being forced to carry passbooks.

She was a former deputy president of the ANC Women's League and in 1994 she took a seat in South Africa's first democratically elected parliament.

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