Cape Town -
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille broke down in tears on Friday morning as she briefed the media about the City of Cape Town’s plans to honour Madiba. She was comforted by ANC chief whip Xolani Sotashe.
Speaking on the Civic Centre concourse, De Lille faltered as she spoke of “the unifier of this nation; (something) that no one else could achieve”.
Also present at the briefing were DA Speaker Dirk Smit and chief whip Anthea Serritslev.
Shortly before midday on Friday, the Presidency had not yet released a detailed plan of the events around Mandela’s funeral, but CNN reported a “10-day” plan, which would include the body lying in state at the Union Buildings and culminating in burial, in Xhosa tradition, at his home in Qunu in Eastern Cape.
The city has already activated its plans to honour Madiba, as thousands of people look for ways to pay tribute to him. Law enforcement teams are out in full force and have closed off the Grand Parade, which will be the site of many celebrations and memorial events over the next few days.
Huge banners depicting Mandela have been hung from the front of the Cape Town City Hall, where the national flag is flying at half mast.
Flowers have been placed in front of the hall, where Mandela made his historic speech after his release from prison in 1990.
The city hall and the Civic Centre, which has housed an exhibition celebrating Mandela’s life for the past few months, have been designated as public viewing areas.
There will be condolence books to sign and messages can also be posted on the city’s website capetown.gov.za/en/CCTEvent/Pages/Messages.aspx.
“As a city, we need to come together to say goodbye properly. We need places to pay our respects and come together to remember,” said De Lille.
She is due to host an interfaith ceremony at the Grand Parade at 5pm.
The city has encouraged all Capetonians to pay tribute to Madiba and public transport – MyCiTi and Golden Arrow buses and Metrorail trains – will be free between noon and 3pm for those wanting to come into the city centre and outbound transport from 7pm.
There will also be public viewing areas in other parts of the city, including Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.
The city has set up a dedicated website – capetown.gov.za/nelsonmandela – with information about events as they are announced.
Sotashe said the ANC in the city was preparing several events, starting with an address by the provincial leadership at the Grand Parade at 1pm. There would also be a prayer service in Khayelitsha, possibly at OR Tambo hall.
A mass prayer service would be held in Mitchells Plain on Sunday, although the venue had yet to be confirmed.
Similar events were being planned by other branches of the ANC, including Drakenstein, where Mandela spent time in Victor Verster Prison, and on the West Coast.
Sotashe said in his tribute: “Let us release Tata again. It’s time for him to rest. This is the moment we must use to unite the people of Cape Town – black, white, coloured and Indian. That is what Madiba stood for.”
Sotashe said the DA, the ANC and other parties had had heated exchanges just days ago at the city’s last council meeting for the year, but on Friday they were speaking with “one voice”.
He said he had been called by the ANC’s provincial secretary at about 9pm last night and told to prepare the metro’s branches for an address by President Jacob Zuma. He said he was shocked to hear a few hours later that Mandela had died.
“We must accept his passing. We need to embrace his legacy and caution those who will use his death to spread fears about tensions in the nation.”
Mandela’s legacy was one of reconciliation, Sotashe said. “We need to sustain that.”
Before announcing the city’s plans, De Lille said: “Today, everyone is a South African.
“Madiba was the father of our young democracy; his story of triumph over adversity is part of the lifeblood of this country.”
She said South Africans had fooled themselves into thinking Madiba would live forever.
“We wanted him to stay alive for us. The pain of letting go seems too great.” But, she added: “After this man gave us so much, we have to let him rest.”
Crowds of people have already gathered at the Civic Centre to pay their respects and refresh their memories of Madiba by viewing the exhibition illustrating his life.