Parliament erupts in song for Madiba

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Parly Madiba tribute

Parliament - In a rare move, the National Assembly erupted in song after Cope MP Dennis Bloem broke with protocol.

The Congress of the People MP started singing during his tribute speech to former president Nelson Mandela.

“Rolihlahla, freedom is in your hands,” he sang, using Mandela's middle name.

People responded with the words “Mandela, Mandela”, but were cut short by Speaker Max Sisulu who called the House to order.

Bloem lifted his hands to his head in a military salute, with many others in the gallery following suit. The National Assembly started emptying out somewhat as the special sitting drew to an end.

Prior to the singing, the House was mostly quiet as MPs and premiers made their speeches.

The heckling and howling which characterises many a National Assembly sitting was notably absent.

Both the Assembly benches and the public gallery above were packed to capacity when Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe took to the podium to open the tributary speeches.

Mandela's grandson Ndaba Mandela represented his family at the sitting.

The younger Mandela placed his right hand over his heart when the national anthem was sung - something his grandfather did.

Others merely stood with both hand at their sides, or with their fingers intertwined.

Motlanthe was followed by various of his political opponents in paying tribute to Mandela.

Earlier, free public gallery tickets for the sitting were snapped up, and many had to be turned away.

Women dressed in white Mandela T-shirts secured seats. ANC Women's League colours were also prominent in the gallery.

Outside the Assembly building, a steady stream of people moved through the parliamentary precinct, paying their respects to the country's first democratically-elected president.

Several buildings, including the National Assembly, were draped in massive banners in tribute to Mandela.

Recordings of Mandela's speeches in the House while he was president from 1994 to 1999 reverberated through the precinct, the sound coming from speakers and a big screen erected outside the building.

MPs, each carrying a single red rose, wrote messages of condolence on a canvas draped over one of the long walls leading to the Assembly building entrance. Some of the messages were washed away by an unexpected downpour on Monday morning.

Those which remain tell the stories of people who were touched by the life and death of Mandela.

“Heaven has gained a special warrior. God Bless Madiba. Love, Imelda,” was written in blue.

Another message read: “The people of Burundi remember Nelson Mandela on August 28, 2000, in Tanzania (Arusha) for reaching a peace agreement for Burundi.”

Children came with their parents to remember Mandela. The children, all born after the end of apartheid, said they were learning about him in school.

Primary school pupil Kauthar Adams said some of her history lessons in school this year had focused on Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

“When it was apartheid, I wasn't born, but I would like to see what Mandela went through in that time and how it was on Robben Island,” she said.

“He went through lots of stuff in apartheid and I'd just like to know why did he fight for justice and why did he want everyone's life to be the same?”

Sapa


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