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Tuesday 20 February 2018

South Africa marks 'Day of Mourning' for Nelson Mandela

A girl holds a candle during a service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, in the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto
A girl holds a candle during a service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, in the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto
MK members arrive at former presidents Nelson Mandela's Houghton home to pay their respects in Johannesburg
Girls attend a service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, in the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto
Members of the public gather at former presidents Nelson Mandela's Houghton home to pay their respects in Johannesburg
Members of the public gather at former presidents Nelson Mandela's Houghton home to pay their respects in Johannesburg, South Africa
A woman takes photos of flowers outside the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela died, in Johannesburg December 8, 2013. South African anti-apartheid hero Mandela died aged 95 at his Johannesburg home on December 5 after a prolonged lung infection. REUTERS/Yves Herman (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: OBITUARY POLITICS)
A rugby ball lies amongst tributes outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. South Africans flocked to houses of worship for a national day of prayer and reflection Sunday to honor former President Nelson Mandela, starting planned events that will culminate in what is expected to be one of the biggest funerals in modern times. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Children hold leaflets with pictures of former South African President Nelson Mandela while waiting outside of his house where he died, in Johannesburg, December 8, 2013. South African anti-apartheid hero Mandela died aged 95 at his Johannesburg home on December 5 after a prolonged lung infection. REUTERS/Yves Herman (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: OBITUARY POLITICS)
People grieve outside the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela died, in Johannesburg, December 8, 2013. South African anti-apartheid hero Mandela died aged 95 at his Johannesburg home on December 5 after a prolonged lung infection. REUTERS/Yves Herman (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: OBITUARY POLITICS)
South African President Jacob Zuma waves goodbye as he leaves after attending a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the Bryanston Methodist Church in Bryanston suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday Dec. 8, 2013. South Africa is readying itself for the arrival of a flood of world leaders for the memorial service and funeral for Nelson Mandela as thousands of mourners continued to flock to sites around the country Saturday to pay homage to the freedom struggle icon. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
MK members arrive at former presidents Nelson Mandelas Houghton home to pay their respects in Johannesburg
People from the Children of Mary Sodality wait before a service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto
People grieve outside the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela died, in Johannesburg, December 8, 2013. South African anti-apartheid hero Mandela died aged 95 at his Johannesburg home on December 5 after a prolonged lung infection. REUTERS/Yves Herman (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: OBITUARY POLITICS)
A woman takes photos of flowers outside the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela died, in Johannesburg December 8, 2013. South African anti-apartheid hero Mandela died aged 95 at his Johannesburg home on December 5 after a prolonged lung infection. REUTERS/Yves Herman (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: OBITUARY POLITICS)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 08: Members of the public gather at former presidents Nelson Mandelas Houghton home to pay their respects on December 8, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mandela, also known as Madiba, passed away on the evening of December 5th, 2013 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95. Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in jail for his activism against apartheid in a racially-divided South Africa (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela's former wife, left, South African President Jacob Zuma, center, and grandson Mandla Mandela, right, pray during a memorial service for Mandela at the Bryanston Methodist Church in Bryanston suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday Dec. 8, 2013. South Africa is readying itself for the arrival of a flood of world leaders for the memorial service and funeral for Nelson Mandela as thousands of mourners continued to flock to sites around the country Saturday to pay homage to the freedom struggle icon. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Ed Cropley

With hymns and eulogies, South Africans of all colours and creeds remembered Nelson Mandela in a day of prayers on Sunday, holding him up as an example to build a better nation and world.

At churches, mosques, synagogues and community halls across the country, from the Limpopo River to the Cape, millions offered praise and reflected on a man celebrated as "Father of the Nation" and as a global beacon of integrity, rectitude and reconciliation.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president who steered his nation out of apartheid and into multi-race democracy, died late on Thursday at the age of 95 after months of illness.

Since then, Africa's economic powerhouse has been gripped by an outpouring of emotion unrivalled since Mandela's release from 27 years of prison in 1990. The eyes of the world have been fixed on his Johannesburg home where crowds have piled flowers, balloons and messages.

At the cavernous Regina Mundi church in Soweto, South Africa's largest Catholic Church, hundreds of mourners, young and old, gathered to pray for Mandela and the nation's future.

"We are praying for both," said Gladys Simelane, an office manager. "People are praying that there will be change, that we will come together."

The day of prayers kicks off an official programme of mourning that includes a memorial service in a Johannesburg stadium on Tuesday and a state funeral next Sunday at Mandela's Eastern Cape ancestral home of Qunu - expected to be one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in recent history.

U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be among those at Tuesday's memorial. Mandela's passing, though long expected as he succumbed slowly to a lung ailment dating back to his days in the notorious Robben Island penal colony, has plunged South Africans into soul-searching mode, six months before presidential and legislative elections.

President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress faces a clamour of calls for better leadership after several years in which South Africa has experienced violent labour unrest, growing protests against poverty, crime and unemployment and corruption scandals tainting Zuma's rule.

It remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, still some way from the "Rainbow Nation" ideal of shared prosperity and social harmony that Mandela proclaimed when he won the country's first multi-racial elections in 1994.

"We felt it important that we should have a day where all of us as South Africans can come together and pray for our first democratic president and reflect on his legacy," President Jacob Zuma said at a Methodist church service in Johannesburg. "But it is also to pray for our nation ... to pray that we not forget some of the values he fought for."

Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela had forgiven even those who had kept him in prison for 27 years, and that he had opposed both white and black domination.

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