Cape Town - Nelson Mandela’s family has spoken for the first time since his death, saying the past few days had been difficult. They thanked people around the world for their prayers and messages of support.
Acknowledging that Mandela was a global citizen, family spokesperson Themba Mathanzima said Madiba had taught his family that a life lived for others was a life well lived.
And his life is set to be celebrated far and wide, with at least two former US presidents among a host of world leaders, presidents and celebrities headed for South Africa, in an unprecedented display of global unity perhaps last seen when Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president on May 10, 1994.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Charles are apparently on the guest list, along with US President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and U2 frontman Bono.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Capetonians are expected to gather at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday for the city’s own memorial service for Mandela, the day after the official memorial in Joburg, and ahead of the state funeral next Sunday in Qunu.
But while the city and even the provincial ANC held special press conferences yesterday to announce local plans to honour Madiba, the scale of the funeral and associated events appeared to have caught the national government off-guard.
By yesterday, the government had still to finalise most of the logistics for Tuesday’s memorial state service at Joburg’s FNB Stadium.
Speakers had yet to be identified, and the roads on which Mandela’s coffin would be transported from 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria to the Union Buildings had yet to be mapped out.
He is to lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday to Friday.
On Saturday Minister in the Presidency
Collins Chabane told the media the International Relations and Co-operation Department was also still finalising arrangements for the heads of state arriving to attend Tuesday’s service and Sunday’s burial in Qunu.
The ANC announced earlier this week there would be 54 memorial events around the country to give everyone a chance to pay tribute to Mandela.
However, Chabane was adamant that the government and security agencies were prepared for any security threats.
“We must always be concerned, but for us this does not represent any specific challenge,” Chabane said. “We have no sleepless nights”.
Heads of state have been advised of the limited space in Qunu, and were urged to select a service to attend.
Meanwhile, in Cape Town, mayor Patricia de Lille hosted a press conference on Saturday to outline local plans.
For Wednesday’s event, Capetonians need to secure free coupons from Computicket and Shoprite stores. They must present their ID or passport, and only those with coupons will be admitted.
De Lille said this would be Cape Town’s main memorial event.
“Members of the public are encouraged to attend this event to mark Cape Town’s own tribute to Madiba, but we will also be celebrating his life on that day.”
Gates open at 2pm and proceedings will start at 4pm.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday a live screening of Madiba’s official memorial service will be broadcast on the Grand Parade for Capetonians.
In line with Sunday’s national day of prayer and reflection, as declared by President Jacob Zuma, the city council is to pay tribute to Mandela with a special sitting on Sunday. There will also be a prayer service at 1.30pm by the ANC’s Dullah Omar region at the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plain.
Sunday evening, from 5pm, an interfaith service will be hosted on the Grand Parade.
The provincial ANC announced its plans on Saturday night while paying tribute to Mandela on the Grand Parade.
ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman said the news of Mandela’s death had shaken the leadership.
“It was very difficult because we all knew that Tata Madiba had to go at some stage. We all knew that six months ago we had a difficult period. He was so ill, but he was still fighting,” he said.
Fransman said Cape Town had a special meaning to Mandela because of his years spent on Robben Island.
“As the ANC in the province, we recognise that Tata Madiba spent more than 20 years in Cape Town, not because of his own will, but because of the way our people were oppressed.”
The leadership, including provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile, added floral tributes to the bank of flowers and then signed the official condolence books.
Other than the inter-faith service in Mitchells Plain at 2pm today, the provincial leadership will visit Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison) between 6am and 8am.
They will then drive to Pollsmoor Prison in a motorcade of 95 black vehicles – one for every year Mandela lived – to lay a wreath.
Mandela was incarcerated in Pollsmoor after he was moved from Robben Island, and before going to Victor Verster.
On Thursday afternoon the provincial ANC will host an event for Cape Town’s African diaspora. Details have still to be confirmed.
Church leaders have called on all churches countrywide to ring their bells at noon on Wednesday, and to light candles in memory of Mandela.
Other events for Cape Town include an “evening of remembrance” at the OR Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha on Monday, and again on Thursday at the Wesfleur Civic Centre in Atlantis. Local residents can pay personal tributes at the two sites, from 7pm.
Next Saturday, on the eve of Madiba’s funeral, a night vigil, including carols by candlelight, will be held on the Grand Parade from 5pm.
There will be a military Guard of Honour when Madiba’s body, draped in the national flag, arrives at Mthatha airport in Qunu.
The SA National Defence Force will perform the ceremonial removal of his body from the aircraft. The coffin will be placed on a gun carriage and moved to a hearse for transporting to the Mandela family home in Qunu, for a traditional ceremony.
Tributes can also be posted online at www.capetown.gov.za/nelsonmandela, as well as on the government Facebook page. – Sunday Argus
* Additional reporting by Sunday Independent Reporters