TRIBUTES are being paid to Nelson Mandela in Lewisham and Greenwich today.

Both Catford and Woolwich town halls are opening books of condolence and are flying their flags at half-mast in tribute to the inspirational South African leader.

Mr Mandela was awarded the freedom of Greenwich borough back in 1983. This was reaffirmed last year. And his name is remembered at Nelson Mandela Road, Kidbrooke, and Plumstead's Mandela House.

Lewisham Council, which has opened a book of condolence at Catford civic suite, will hold a one-minute’s silence at 3pm this afternoon as a mark of respect.

There will be a memorial service for Mr Mandela starting at 6.30pm at St Mary’s Church, 346 Lewisham High Street, on December 10.

And Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock paid tribute to the great man today, saying: "When the history books are written centuries from now there will be three names from the 20th century held up as the greatest statesmen of that era – Sir Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.

"And of those three it will be Mandela who stands out as a colossus, a secular saint – a man who freed his own people and gave hope to the world.

"Those of us who have been alive at the same time as Nelson Mandela are blessed. We know the heights a human being can reach, we know that bitterness, anger and violence can be trumped by forgiveness, humility and love."

Greenwich Council leader Councillor Chris Roberts said: “We are profoundly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela. His life and the manner in which it was lived, reinforced the values of honesty, justice and hope in the face of searing oppression.

“Those of us who lived in his time and witnessed the changes wrought by the power of his intellect and the strength of his humanity will be envied by future generations who will know him only from the history books."