By JANIS KINNEAR, JAN CRONJE and PAIGE SUTHERLAND
Cape Town - Cape Town paid tribute to Nelson Mandela on Friday with flowers, handwritten messages, prayers, posts on websites, songs and silent contemplation.
After Premier Helen Zille’s announcement on Friday that the Grand Parade in front of City Hall would be the “primary public space” for people to pay tribute to Mandela in the city, hundreds of people converged, bearing South African flags, wearing ANC T-shirts and Mandela rosettes.
The crowds sang and danced, waving flags, as they waited for an interfaith service in honour of Mandela to start.
A bank of flowers and messages of thanks, tributes and famous Mandela quotes were placed by Capetonians in front of the City Hall balcony, where, in 1990, Mandela gave his first public speech after his release from prison.
Some people at on Friday’s event were present on February 11, 1990, when Mandela addressed tens of thousands of people after almost three decades of imprisonment on Robben Island.
Khayelitsha resident Lineo Mosehle, 53, carrying a South African flag, remembered that historic day 23 years ago when she waited in anticipation to catch sight of Mandela and hear his message.
“It was a big day and we were all so happy. He told us to forget our past and bind together. He taught us to love each other and unite,” Mosehle said.
Posing for a photograph with rows of wreaths was Afrika Prins, 48, and his son Ethan, 10.
Prins said he couldn’t believe the country’s first democratically elected president had died.
When the news broke on Thursday night, Prins had been working a night shift. He started monitoring the news on TV, opting not to go to sleep.
On Friday he went to the city centre to pay his respects to the man he believes has been an “inspiration” to South Africans and the world.
Prins hoped that yesterday’s procession, which included messages and prayers by interfaith groups, would move Capetonians to bring an end to violence in the city.
“I hope this day will open people’s minds in Cape Town to stop the violence, killings and abuse of women and children,” said Prins.
A poster attached to the railing in the tribute section read: “Prisoner, president, father of our nation. We are forever grateful for your selfless sacrifice for us as a people.”
Struggling to hold back her tears, Julinda Gantana, 43, expressed her thanks, saying South Africa was so “blessed”.
“It is a freedom we need to cherish and protect. Even if you didn’t meet Madiba, his spirit just touches you and he inspired most of us to better ourselves,” she said.
Sesana Parks, 41, had brought along her four children and said her family represented the “rainbow” nation Mandela fought for his whole life.
Wearing an ANC flag wrapped around her waist, Parks said she believed the party once led by Mandela could still “live out the ideals in the Freedom Charter”.
Addressing the crowd from the City Hall steps, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said it was “time for us to let him go”.
“We are all here tonight because we are moved by something larger than ourselves; that national spirit that has sometimes faded and sometimes shone since 1994.”
Zille said the province would set up 160 Places of Tribute where people could write in condolence books and leave floral tributes.
“The Places of Tribute will provide members of the public an opportunity to write in the condolences book and pay tribute to Madiba in a dignified way,” she said.
All places are expected to be open by Saturday morning.
At the Civic Centre officials said that by 3pm on Friday more than 1 000 people had written tributes in the three official condolence books.
The Western Cape Government has announced 160 Places of Tribute in the province. Below is a list of some of these places. For a full and updated list, with opening times, visit www.westerncape.gov.za/madiba/memorial-and-funeral
Places of Tribute
V&A Waterfront – Clock Tower Square
V&A Waterfront – Nobel Square
St George’s Cathedral
University of the Western Cape, Main Hall (from Monday)
Clanwilliam – Multi-purpose Community Centre
Darling – Darling Community Hall
Malmesbury – Westbank Community Hall and Ilinge Lethu Thusong Centre
Saldanha – Diazville Community Hall
Ashton – Ashton Town Hall and Zolani Community Hall
Paarl – Paarl East Thusong Centre and Paarl Town Hall
Arniston – Arniston Community Hall
Barrydale – Fortshaven Hall
Bredasdorp – Glaskasteel Community Sport Facility and Nelson Mandela Community Facility
Caledon – Vlei View Hall
Greyton – Greyton Primary Hall
Hermanus – Zwelihle Community Hall and Banquet Hall
Swellendam – Swellendam Town Hall and Railton Thusong Centre
Calitzdorp – Bergsig Community Hall
George – Lawaaikamp Community Hall, Blanco Community Hall, Rosemoor Community Hall, Conville Community Hall and Main Civic Hall
Heidelberg – Duivenhoks Saal
Knysna – Cearn Hall
Mossel Bay – Mossel Bay Town Hall
Oudtshoorn – Civic Centre
*Buy any Independent weekend newspaper for the special Nelson Mandela supplement.