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SOUTH AFRICA BURIES ‘GREATEST SON’ MANDELA

Posted on: 07 Jan 2014

Members of the public sing and dance as they arrive for the Nelson Mandela memorial service at the FNB Stadium, on Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Still, tens of thousands of South Africans and more than 90 world leaders like former US President, Bill Clinton, George Bush Junior and a host of others gathered at the largest soccer stadium in South Africa to pay tribute to the country’s emancipator and its former president, the late Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday 5th December 2013 at the age of 95 years.

The speakers on the programme spanned the globe and political ideology. The service that was billed to be a memorial service, the proceedings were “clearly a celebration of life.”

“It was a memorial, but it was almost a thanksgiving as well,” Ofeibea said. “I think people are so grateful to what Nelson Mandela and his generation of freedom fighters did to liberate South Africa.”

Andrew Mlangeni, one of only three surviving defendants at the Rivonia treason trial that sent Mandela and his anti-apartheid colleagues to prison for 27 years, opened the service by recalling Mandela as an “incomparable force of leadership” who “illuminated the way in our nation’s darkest hour.”

“It would be in our collective wisdom … to uphold the values of Nelson Mandela,” Mlangeni said.

TRIBUTES TO MANDELA

President Obama delivered a well-received 20-minute eulogy that compared Mandela to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and America’s founding fathers.

Mandela, Obama said, was the “last great liberator of the 20th century.” He was not only a man of politics, but a pragmatist and a flawed human being who managed to discipline his anger to turn centuries of oppression into what Mandela liked to call a “Rainbow Nation.”

“It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth,” Obama said. “He changed laws, but he changed also hearts.”

But Obama also lingered on Mandela as a human and a pragmatist. Here’s a particularly moving excerpt from his speech:

“Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their God-given dignity. Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. …

“Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.

He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate.

He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement. And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depends upon his.

“Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions.

He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.” But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.

And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

“Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa- Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailors as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he changed also hearts.”

SOUTH AFRICA BURIES ‘GREATEST SON’ MANDELA

South Africa buried Nelson Mandela on Sunday 15th December 2013, leaving the multi-racial democracy he founded without its living inspiration and still striving for the “Rainbow Nation” ideal of shared prosperity he had dreamed of.

The Nobel peace laureate, who was held in apartheid prisons for 27 years before emerging to preach forgiveness and reconciliation, was laid to rest at his ancestral home in Qunu after a send-off combining military pomp with the traditional rites of his Xhosa abaThembu clan.

As the coffin was lowered into the wreath-ringed grave, three army helicopters flew over bearing the South African flag on weighted cables, a poignant echo of the anti-apartheid leader’s inauguration as the nation’s first black president nearly two decades ago.

A battery fired a 21-gun salute, the booms reverberating around the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape, before five fighter jets flying low in formation roared over the valley.

“Yours was truly a long walk to freedom, and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of your maker,” armed forces Chaplain General Monwabisi Jamangile said at the grave site, where three of Mandela’s children already lie.

Among the 450 mourners at the private burial ceremony were relatives, political leaders and foreign guests including Britain’s Prince Charles, American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Mandela died at the age of 95 years in Johannesburg on December 5, plunging his 52 million countrymen and women and millions more around the world into grief, and triggering more than a week of official memorials to one of the towering figures of the 20th century.

Over 100,000 people paid their respects in person at Mandela’s lying in state at Pretoria’s Union Buildings, where he was sworn in as president in 1994, an event that brought the curtain down on more than three centuries of white domination.

When his body arrived on Saturday14th December 2013 in Qunu, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg, it was greeted by ululating locals overjoyed that Madiba, the clan name by which he was affectionately known, had “come home”.

“After his long life and illness he can now rest,” said grandmother Victoria Ntsingo. “His work is done.”

“GREATEST SON”

Before the burial, 4,500 family, friends and dignitaries attended the state funeral service in a huge domed tent, its interior draped in black, in a field near Mandela’s homestead.

The flag-covered casket was carried in by military chiefs, with Mandela’s grandson and heir, Mandla, and South African President Jacob Zuma following in their footsteps.

It was then placed on black and white Nguni cattle skins in front of a crescent of 95 candles, one for each year of Mandela’s life, as a choir sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the national anthem adopted after the end of apartheid in 1994.

“The person who is lying here is South Africa’s greatest son,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), who presided over the three-hour ceremony broadcast live across the nation and around the world.

From the Limpopo River in the north to Cape Town in the south, millions watched on television or listened to the radio. In some locations, big screens transmitted the event live.

“Qunu is too far to go, so I gathered with some people here so we can mourn together. I can say he is a hero, a man of the people,” said 29-year-old Message Sibanda, among about 100 others watching in Johannesburg’s Sandton financial district.

“FAREWELL, MY BROTHER”

At the service, touching tributes were paid to the father of the “Rainbow Nation” he helped forge from apartheid’s ashes.

“Farewell my dear brother, my mentor, my leader,” said lifelong friend and fellow Robben Island inmate Ahmed Kathrada, his voice cracking with emotion, drawing tears from mourners.

In his eulogy, Zuma paid tribute to a life that went from freedom-fighter to political prisoner to president. He also briefly turned attention to the future, pledging to continue Mandela’s quest for a free and equal society, free from racial discrimination.

“Whilst the long walk to freedom has ended in the physical sense, our own journey continues. We have to continue building the type of society you worked tirelessly to construct. We have to take the legacy forward,” Zuma said.

MANDELA