Politics clouds some Mandela events

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IOL pic dec8 mandela vilakazi street party


A boy looks on in front of balloons bearing a picture of former president Nelson Mandela on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg -

Flutterings of politicking crept into certain commemoration services held countrywide in honour of struggle icon Nelson Mandela on Sunday.

At Vilakazi Street in Soweto - where Mandela once lived - ANC Youth League and Economic Freedom Fighters supporters nearly came to physical blows.

Over the sound system of a truck, an ANCYL member told EFF supporters who had gathered: “You are not wanted here. Go.”

However, an ANCYL supporter then separated the two groups, telling them: “Let's not do this. Today, we are one, regardless of which party one belongs to.”

During a prayer service at the Ngangelizwe Rotary Stadium in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, the Chief Apostle of the 12 Apostles Church, Caesar Nongqunga, said the ANC needed to stop its infighting.

“We do love you (the ANC), we just want to see you united.”

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who was in attendance at the service, responded by saying it was difficult to keep corrupt people out of the ANC because the party was so big. He gave the comparison of when one opened a window for fresh air and a mosquito would enter.

“You don't deprive yourself of fresh air but deal with the mosquitoes,” Mantashe said.

He was speaking at one of many events held countrywide to commemorate Mandela’s life.

The anti-apartheid icon and South Africa's first democratically elected president died at his Houghton home on Thursday night. He was 95.

A massive memorial service would be held at the 94 000-seater FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday. Mandela would then be given a state funeral in his childhood home of Qunu, Eastern Cape on Sunday.

The government continued with logistical arrangements for the week on Sunday.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the South African National Defence Force had cancelled all leave to have over 11 000 soldiers help with security arrangements.

Mapisa-Nqakula said old friends and ANC veterans Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, Dennis Goldberg and ANC Women's League veteran Gertrude Shope would accompany Mandela's body when it was flown to Qunu on Saturday.

The Mandela family on Sunday asked all South Africans to help them keep former president Nelson Mandela's dream alive.

“Though he answered to the name father, husband, granddad, son and statesman, we all understood ultimately that Tata remains an inspiration not only to us but to the nation,” General TT Matanzima said as he read a statement on behalf of the Mandela family.

“Both our mothers, Graca Machel and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, express their conviction that Nelson Mandela like a flower will continue to blossom in all your hearts forever,” Matanzima read on behalf of the family.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa told people attending an interfaith service at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg, that he was sure Mandela would find members of the ANC waiting for him in heaven.

“Mandela will find a branch of the ANC,” said Ramaphosa.

“They will roll out a red carpet and say ‘Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, welcome home’.”

Earlier at the service, three traditional leaders summoned the ancestors and called on the spirit of anti-apartheid activists Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu to accept Mandela's spirit.

On Sunday morning, President Jacob Zuma told mourners at the Bryanston Methodist Church, that prayer services, “will go a long way to heal our country”.

Along with a number of other family members and government officials, Madikizela-Mandela, wearing a black turban and an elaborate necklace, sat in the front, stone-faced and sombre throughout proceedings.

Protea captain AB De Villiers also paid tribute to Mandela at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban, standing on the field before the start of a test match against India, to declare that: “I consider myself very privileged to have grown up in the Mandela era.”

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told reporters in Johannesburg that “the fact that international leaders are making their way to South Africa at such short notice reflects the special place president Nelson Mandela holds in the hearts of people around the globe”.

International Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said a total of 53 heads of state and governments had confirmed their attendance for the memorial service.

US president Barack Obama would attend with three former US presidents - Jimmy Carter, George W Bush, and Bill Clinton - along with their wives.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff would be accompanied by four former heads of state.

Representatives from the United Nations and the African Union were also expected.

On Sunday afternoon, Qunu was quiet besides the presence of several police officers huddled at the main gate of Mandela's house.

Construction work took place nearby and a large white tent had been erected. - Sapa

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