President Jacob Zuma is describing the moment the world first saw a "tall, imposing figure walking out into a world he had left behind 27 years before".
He says South Africans were, at that time, a "downtrodden people" and that they "needed a leader like Madiba".
Zuma refers to Mandela repeatedly as a "freedom fighter".
Pictures released today give a unique look inside Air Force One as two former and one current US President flew to Nelson Mandela's memorial
Twenty years ago the soon to be President Mandela pledged to 'wash away the stains of apartheid' - two decades on those stains remain.
Barack Obama has led the tributes to Nelson Mandela saying that South Africa's democracy is his 'cherished legacy.'