Tuesday 20 February 2018

'We have lost a great man' - Family of Nelson Mandela speak out after his death

Nelson Mandela in Cape Town, South Africa in 1997
Nelson Mandela in Cape Town, South Africa in 1997

Nelson Mandela's family said they have "lost a great man, a son of the soil" in their first statement since his death.

A spokesman for the Mandela family read the statement to journalists in Johannesburg.

The statement said: "The pillar of the royal Mandela family is no more with us physically, but his spirit is still with us.

"We have lost a great man, a son of the soil whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst - a caring family leader who made time for all and on that score we will miss him dearly."

Meanwhile, South Africa expects overwhelming crowds and a host of world leaders to attend services honouring the late former president Nelson Mandela.

Across the country, South Africans have already begun honouring Mr Mandela, who died on Thursday aged 95, and the authorities expect tens of thousands to participate in next week's official services.

Official services honouring Mr Mandela will begin on Tuesday with a major memorial planned at the FNB Stadium on the edge of Johannesburg's Soweto township.

Government minister Collins Chabane told journalists he expects massive crowds far beyond what the stadium's normal 95,000-person capacity could hold. He said there would be "overflow" areas set up.

A boy pauses at a shrine outside the home of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg December 6, 2013.
A boy pauses at a shrine outside the home of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg December 6, 2013.

"We can't tell people not to come," he said.

He could not offer specifics about how crowds would arrive there with all roads to the venue closed by police or who would serve as a master of ceremonies.

Those planning Mr Mandela's funeral include the former president's family, the federal government, the military and the African National Congress party.

Despite some prior planning by authorities as Mr Mandela grew frail and suffered bouts of hospitalisation in recent years, many of the details remain up in the air.

It is unclear which ceremony world leaders will attend, either Tuesday's stadium memorial or the planned funeral service on December 15 in Qunu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's rural hometown in Eastern Cape Province.

Mr Chabane said South African officials were briefing diplomats about the arrangements.

US president Barack Obama and his two predecessors, George W Bush and Bill Clinton, have already indicated they will attend services in South Africa honouring Mr Mandela.

Mr Mandela's body will not be at the stadium event on Tuesday, Mr Chabane said.

His body will rest in state on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of government power in South Africa's capital.

Mourners will walk up the steps into the Union Buildings' amphitheatre and file past Mr Mandela's body, Mr Chabane said. Authorities blocked visitors from visiting the amphitheatre on Saturday. Mr Chabane said he did not know yet whether it would be an open- or closed-casket viewing.

Mr Mandela's body will be held overnight during those days at a military hospital on Pretoria's outskirts, Mr Chabane said.

He called on residents to line the streets to serve as an honour guard as Mr Mandela's body will pass twice each day.

ANC members will hold a ceremony on December 14 at Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria before Mr Mandela's body is flown to Qunu from there, Mr Chabane added.

Sunday has been declared a national day of prayer and reflection over Mr Mandela's death.

The government has announced that a special sitting of the two houses of parliament will be held on Monday to pay tribute to Mr Mandela, the country's first black and democratically elected president.

Tributes to the former anti-apartheid activist continued to pour in from around the globe on Saturday.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since his country's independence from Britain in 1980 and supported Mr Mandela's ANC during its struggle against the apartheid regime, paid his first public tribute to the deceased leader.

Despite himself being accused by critics of increasingly authoritarian rule, Mr Mugabe praised Mr Mandela as a champion of democracy and "an unflinching fighter for justice".

"Mr Nelson Mandela's renowned and illustrious political life will forever remain a beacon of excellence," Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper The Herald quoted Mr Mugabe as saying.

At Mr Mandela's house in Houghton, hundreds of people gathered on Saturday and sang liberation songs and homages to him. They walked through the streets of Houghton past expansive, stately homes carrying bundles of flowers and images of Mr Mandela.

Precious Ncayiyana, a pharmacist, carried a painting of Mr Mandela made from old newspaper clippings about him. Her left eye bore the number 4664, Mr Mandela's former inmate number, while her right eye said Madiba, his clan name.

Ms Ncayiyana said she planned to drive the painting's artist to Pretoria so he could make a painting of the leader's body lying in state.

"It's my way of contributing to Madiba's legacy. He's gone, but his spirit lives on," she said.

As the chanting and cheering behind her grew louder, she raised her voice to add: "If you see someone you can help, it doesn't cost anything. ... That's what he taught us."

Press Association

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