Maori King remembers Mandela

The Maori King, Tuheitia, has added his condolences to Nelson Mandela's whanau and the people of South Africa.

The Kingitanga - or king movement - first established links with Mr Mandela in 1995, when King Tuheitia escorted Mr Mandela on to the Tainui Marae of Turangawaewae in Ngaruawaahia to meet with his late mother, the Maori Queen.

King Tuheitia has extended his sympathies to Mr Mandela's family and his country, saying his thoughts are with them at this time.

In a statement, he says Mr Mandela was the embodiment of the struggle faced by indigenous people who have fought for their rights to land and their own destinies.

King Tuheitia says he will remember him as a humble man with a great heart and a huge smile, who gave himself to the cause of freedom and equality for all.

He says Mr Mandela was the embodiment of the struggle of tangata whenua for control over their lands and their destinies, adding that he was a great man and an inspiration to all - and that he will never be forgotton.

When Mr Mandela visted Waikato in the mid-90s, he brought a gift of a protea plant, which is the national plant of South Africa. Then it was a mere shrub but it now graces Turongo with its vibrant colour and beauty, King Tuheitia says.

Meanwhile, doctors treating the king are to decide if he is well enough to travel to the funeral, expected to be held on 15 December.

King Tuheitia is suffering from diabetes-related illnesses, which are causing blood clots and kidney problems. A spokesperson for his office says the health of 57-year-old will have to be considered before any decision is made on travelling to the funeral.

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