South Africa remembered former president Nelson Mandela on the first anniversary of his death yesterday, with tributes to his struggle against white-minority rule and reflections on the country’s failure to capitalise on the freedom he fought for.
Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle laid wreaths at the foot of a statue of Mandela in Pretoria, where large crowds earlier sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa), the national anthem adopted after apartheid ended in 1994.
Across the country, crowds gathered to ring bells, sound sirens and blare vuvuzelas for three minutes and seven seconds, before observing three minutes of silence, in a six minute and seven second tribute to reflect Mandela’s 67 years in public service. Some carried pictures of Madiba, the clan name by which he is also known.
It was also a time to reflect on the disappointing pace of change since 1994 and vent frustration at president Jacob Zuma and his ruling African National Congress party.
“This moment should call upon us to pause and to reflect on the life of South Africa’s greatest son,” said acting president Cyril Ramaphosa, standing in for Mr Zuma who is in China.
Ephraim Mabena, 55, who is a veteran of the anti-apartheid armed unit that Mandela helped to found, called him an inspiration and a legend, adding: “The sad part is that he is no longer with us.”
South Africa’s first black president, who spent 27 years in apartheid prisons before emerging to preach forgiveness and reconciliation, died last year aged 95 after suffering from a lung infection.