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Family gladly shared Mandela with rest of nation

Nelson Mandela with his wife Graca Machel and ex -wife Winnie. Picture: Getty

Nelson Mandela with his wife Graca Machel and ex -wife Winnie. Picture: Getty

  • by STEPHEN MCGINTY
 

THE family of Nelson Mandela spoke of their immense pride in the former president yesterday, but added that they had to “share” him with the whole of South Africa.

Four of Nelson Mandela’s 18 grandchildren and great-grandchildren spoke at the national memorial service in Johannesburg and urged the mourners to keep their grandfather’s spirit alive.

The family’s tributes were led by General Thanduxolo Mandela, who said: “His life was about service to others. I can see Madiba is smiling from above, at the equality of men, the brotherhood and humanity displayed here.”

He said his grandfather was a man who belonged not just to his family but to the entire nation.

“We had to share him with the whole of South Africa,” he said. “His legacy leaves us all to carry on. In the lifetime, Madiba mingled with kings, queens and presidents, ordinary workers. At his core he was a man of the people.”

Gen Mandela ended by saying that Mr Mandela was: “A son of Africa. A child of the Thembu. A descendant of great kings.”

Later on during the service, Mbuso Mandela spoke of how his grandfather would always turn the attention away from himself and back on to the other civil rights campaigners who had toiled for the cause while he was in prison. He said: “They say, ‘You are a wise man.’ You remind them, ‘Walter Sisulu was a wise man too,’ They say, ‘You are resilient.’ You say, ‘Was Oliver Tambo not more resilient?’ They say: ‘You are a mirror that reflects the glory and splendour of mind and heart.’ You retort, ‘My people reflect the splendours of our dreams.’”

Phumia Mandela, his great-grand-daughter, said: “On behalf of the family I would like to thank all the heads of state who are here.”

She said that his death had left her, like many others, “lost in a whirlwind” and “grappling with a cauldron of emotions”. She then read a poem which said: “You are lodged in our memories, you tower over the world like a comet, leaving streaks of light for us to follow. We salute you.”

Many in the stadium carried umbrellas and South African flags, or arrived draped in the green, yellow and black colours of the African National Congress. A few blew vuvuzelas, the plastic horns that become popular during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

In the hours before the service began, South Africans from all walks of life danced and clapped and sang. Stadiums across Johannesburg were also equipped with giant screens to allow as many people as possible to watch the event, but the heavy rain meant they were sparsely attended.

At the Ellis Park Stadium were five workers, picked by management to represent the Checkers store chain. “Mandela was a father figure to us,” said Rosinal Kawana, who was dressed in her store uniform. “And he was a motivation for our kids.”

Back at the FBN Stadium Nkosazana Dlamini, chairwoman of the African Union Commission, said in her eulogy: “You have lived a beautiful life. You bequeathed us a better world than the one you were born in … Thank you for having mentored us.”

It was not only the heads of state such as Barack Obama who wished to pay tribute to the man many regard as the father of South Africa.

Before the memorial began Muhammad Choonara, 24, a university student, said: “I think Madiba would like us to celebrate and not be sad, to have smiles on our faces.”

Dipolelo Moshe, 35, who works for a marketing company and arrived at the stadium with a South African flag draped over her shoulders and a carrying a large photograph of Mr Mandela, said: “Mandela was a very humble man and he gave himself to the world.

“He sacrificed time with his family for us and for me. It is a privilege to be here, it is a humbling experience.”

It was sentiment shared by Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, 24, who as he queued to enter the stadium said: “I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him. I’m here to show my gratitude to Madiba. He was jailed so we could have our freedom.”

In quotes

“He created hope where there was none ... He touched my heart, my soul, my life and those of the millions of South Africans.” - Andrew Mlangeni, family friend

“Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela: The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice.” - Raul Castro, president of Cuba

“Mr Mandela was more than one of the greatest pillars of our time. He was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example. He sacrificed so much ... for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice.” - Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general

“His fight reached way beyond his nation’s border and inspired young men and women to fight for independence and social justice.” - Dilma Rousseff, Brazilian president

“Mr Mandela was the pride of the African people. He has dedicated his entire life to the development and progress of the African content.” - Li Yuanchao, Chinese vice president

“The long walk is over... and he can finally rest.” - Cyril Ramaphosa, master of ceremonies

Statesman’s Long Walk ends at Qunu

The final journey of Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk” will begin today when his body will lie in state at the heart of the South African government in Pretoria.

Yesterday, president Jacob Zuma declared that the union building where the body will lie will now be known as the Nelson Mandela amphitheatre.

Each day at 7am, his body will be taken from the mortuary to the city hall and members of the public have been encouraged to line the streets as an “honour guard”.

Mr Mandela’s family will be the first to pay their respects this morning, with members of the public admitted from noon.

His body will lie in state for three days.

On Saturday, he will be transported from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to the Eastern Cape airport at Mthatha. A procession will then go to his home village of Qunu for Sunday’s funeral.

That will be a smaller affair than yesterday’s memorial service, and will be attended by close family friends such as Bill Clinton, the former American president, while Britain will be represented by Prince Charles.

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