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An image grab shows President Jacob Zuma holding a press briefing to announce the death of former president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. Photo: AFP

Durban - Banners reading “Mourning a leader, celebrating a legacy Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba” flutter across the precinct of Parliament, where later on monday President Jacob Zuma was to deliver the first address to a special joint sitting of the national legislature.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was to follow, according to the provisional speakers’ list. The more than two-hour debate paying tribute to Madiba was to be closed by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who was present when Mandela cast his first vote on April 27, 1994, at Ohlange High School in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal.

Parliamentary protocol includes premiers in special joint sittings. North West Premier Thandi Modise was also expected to speak.

Parliament on Monday morning opened to anyone wanting to attend the special joint sitting, and for the whole week the national legislature will be open to the public from 8am to 8pm.

There is a special Madiba exhibition and some 16 condolence books for visitors to pay their respects.

Up and down the parliamentary precinct are photos of Madiba at Parliament and quotes from the many speeches he delivered at the national legislature between 1994 and 1999.

The wall at the Flame of Remembrance has been draped in a black cloth. Parliament’s presiding officers and staff were to lay a wreath there this morning, and hold a brief memorial service before the focus shifted to the joint sitting.

At the gates of Parliament, flowers have been stuck to the wrought-iron fence.

Anyone who wants to attend the special joint sitting, or visit during the week, must bring an ID. With seats in the National Assembly public gallery limited, there will be several spillover venues with television screens around the parliamentary precinct.

There will also be a broadcast link-up to Cape Town’s Grand Parade, a gathering place on the days following Mandela’s death. It was also where thousands of people heard Mandela deliver his first public address after his release from Victor Verster prison on February 11, 1990.

“There’s no better way to pay tribute to Madiba. The only way we can thank him is to do what happened in 1994; to open the doors to Parliament,” said its spokesman, Luzuko Jacobs. “He redefined protocol and taught everyone Parliament is a site of democracy.”

At the weekend, Parliament’s presiding officers, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces chairman Mninwa Mahlangu, said: “The passing of an iconic world statesman, a political, moral and intellectual colossus of Madiba’s stature, more than justifies the convening of a special sitting of Parliament, even during recess.”

While Madiba’s life among the living had ended, there was no one more alive than him.

“He lives on in our commitment to entrenching a non-racial, non-sexist democratic society in which all live a decent life free from hunger and want,” the presiding officers and their deputies said.

“As the country’s legislature, we must commit ourselves – the majority party together with the other parties represented here – to doing more together to bring about an equitable society were freedom is truly felt in all aspects of life by all our people.”

The ANC parliamentary caucus said the joint sitting would provide “Parliament… an opportunity to honour the nation’s beloved father and international statesman and to reflect on his life and legacy”.

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