A young girl carried by her father holds a flower outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. Picture: Themba Hadebe
A young girl carried by her father holds a flower outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. Picture: Themba Hadebe

Give Madiba dignified send-off - Mthethwa

By Time of article published Dec 7, 2013

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Johannesburg -

The government has asked people for their co-operation while the country commemorates the life of former president Nelson Mandela, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Saturday.

“We are urging members of the public to really help us to ensure a dignified send-off for this outstanding man of our time,” said Mthethwa.

“This is a state funeral first and foremost, which makes it different from any other funeral we have had in the country, in our democracy.

“What makes it different is that it is the funeral of Madiba, the former president of the republic, leader of the ANC and a global icon.”

The SA National Defence Force implemented plans to ensure the security of the country's airspace and borders after Mandela's death was announced on Thursday night.

President Jacob Zuma said there would be a national day of prayer and reflection for Mandela on Sunday, with an official memorial service at FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

Mandela's remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, from Wednesday to Friday, when official memorial services will also be held in all provinces and regions.

Mandela's state funeral will be held in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, next Sunday.

Mthethwa said Tuesday was the most important day, and that as many people as possible should participate, not just at the official memorial service but at other services to be held across the country.

“We have looked at FNB Stadium from a security point of view. FNB Stadium may not be enough to take all the people who want to come,” Mthethwa said.

Aside from the public, dignitaries and heads of state were also expected to attend the official memorial.

Roads would be closed leading to and around the stadium, with the details of the closures to be announced at a later stage.

“We really wish that the security forces not be kept busy, because we want to emphasise the compassion part of what people want to come (and) observe on the day,” Mthethwa said.

“Madiba touched the lives of multitudes of people. Everybody would want to be associated with him 1/8Mandela 3/8, which is a good thing, which is why we emphasise that part.”

The government was also considering using Ellis Park, in Johannesburg, and the Orlando Stadium, in Soweto, as overflow areas where people could pay their respects.

Mthethwa could not say how many security personnel would be on duty at the memorial and funeral, but said security was of the highest priority.

“I can say that we will deploy as much as possible, understanding the magnitude of the funeral.

“We would want to ensure that we have security personnel, as we see it, more to help people and direct people to be able to mourn. We are urging members of the public to really respect the events.”

Provincial governments would, in the coming days, announce the specifics of where people could leave items to remember Mandela.

One of those places was the Union Buildings.

The government was trying to ensure that these places were as close as possible to where people lived so they could also participate in remembering and reflecting on Mandela's life.

“We want as many people as possible, and ordinary folks who won't be able to travel to Gauteng, (to) be able to go where they are so they are able to express their appreciation for what Madiba stood for.”

Regarding Mandela's funeral in the Eastern Cape, restrictions would be in place in Mthatha, where heads of state and dignitaries were expected to arrive.

Government officials would land elsewhere, such as East London, and would travel to Mthatha.

“Mthatha is a small town, so you can imagine if the entire world descends upon it,” Mthethwa said.

He repeated his call for the public to allow security forces to do their jobs.

“They must let them do their (jobs) but we want to ensure that the public are allowed the opportunity to express their grief and mourn and celebrate the life of a colossus of our time and be able to be given that chance,” he said.

“Security forces will be there for their safety, but they will be there for compassion. We also emphasise the point, particularly his (Mandela's) legacy, is the legacy of the ordinary person in the street.

“South Africans and people of the world would want to heed the call to give him a dignified send-off, the father of our democracy.”

Mthethwa said the security forces present were in mourning themselves, and that this should also be borne in mind by the public. - Sapa

* Buy any Independent Newspapers weekend paper for the special Nelson Mandela supplement.

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