Johannesburg - The public's response to the death of former president Nelson Mandela has been incredible, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Monday.
She and the Mandela family were taken aback by the public's response, Sisulu told reporters outside Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, where crowds have gathered since his death there on Thursday.
“I think that when Madiba did fall ill, we did have a sense of just what to expect when he did pass on, but we did not expect what is happening now,” she said.
“It is just completely beyond our ability to express our gratitude and assess what is happening, but it has been an incredible response. An absolutely incredible response.”
She was overawed, as a member of the African National Congress, the government, and as a relative of the Mandela family.
“This is what I think he deserves. What he has given us, nobody in living memory would have been able to do what he has done,” she said.
Asked whether Mandela's death had resulted in the disappearance of the glue that held South Africa together, Sisulu said she felt the opposite was taking place.
“No, he is the glue that held everyone together in the same way that the head of the family has glue that holds them together. When that glue goes away, the family doesn't fragment,” she said.
“If anything, they tend to come together, if only to honour that person who represented everything that they would like to hold dear. And as you can see from all of these people, we are holding together because that is what he would've wanted us to do.”
Sisulu said the country was proud of Mandela and needed to take forward the foundation he had built.
“We can do no less than that: 1/8to make him 3/8 as proud of us as we of him. So, any suggestion that because the glue has gone, everybody will go their different ways is just a figment of some imagination,” she said.
“We are closer now than ever before because this one person has given us so much. We got to honour 1/8him 3/8 as best we can.”
She said the Mandela family was calm. Given that Mandela had been ill for some time, they had subconsciously come to terms with what was going to happen.
“They are an incredibly strong family and they've been talking through it especially during his last days. They did have a sense that he will be going. So they did talk through it,” Sisulu said.
“Now, what they are concentrating on is what is the next step, and what's the next step (after that)... but it is very calm. It is one family united and he (Mandela) would be proud if he walked in there, just how together they are and how calm they are.”
Asked about her favourite memory of Mandela, Sisulu said she did not have a favourite memory given the size of Mandela's personality.
“I don't know if it's a memory, but its just the entirety of the man from the first time I knew him when I was a little girl. He seemed taller than I expected,” she said.
“His voice was louder than everybody, the belly laugh that just rocked even the chair where he was sitting... he's just everything that I'm proud of.”