David Cameron paid tribute to the spirit of forgiveness shown by Nelson Mandela as he joined world leaders and thousands of South Africans at a massive memorial service for the anti-apartheid hero.
Mr Cameron said Mr Mandela set an example to politicians across the world, not only in the “incredible stand he took” but in the way he treated people once he was released from prison.
He highlighted the moment Mr Mandela appeared with captain of the Springboks Francois Pienaar at the Rugby World Cup final in South Africa in 1995.
Mr Cameron told BBC Breakfast: “I will never forget the sight of him with the captain of the Springboks out in the middle of that rugby pitch, that moment is seared in all our memories.
“And the way that he had treated people who had done such harm to people. I think it was the forgiveness that set an example that so few politicians are able to follow. I think those sort of lessons are what we need to learn and take away with us.”
Mr Cameron was speaking as he was set to be joined by his three surviving predecessors at a special commemoration service for the former president, who died on Thursday aged 95, at the FNB Stadium in Soweto.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband are also set to attend the memorial service.
The former South African president made his last public appearance at the stadium at the closing ceremony of the 2010 football World Cup.
More than 80,000 people in the stadium will hear speeches from statesmen including US president Barack Obama, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and South African president Jacob Zuma, who will give the keynote address.