434 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela contemplates at the Bryanston Methodist church where the Mandela family and president jacob Zuma paid tribute to Madiba. 081213. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - It was spontaneous, but not unexpected that so many people came together to pray for Nelson Mandela.

Alongside President Jacob Zuma and Madiba’s former wife and his grandson - Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Mandla Mandela - the Bryanston Methodist Church was packed with mourners on Sunday.

This was one of the many prayer services held across the country for Nelson Mandela.

“This was pretty spontaneous,” said the Rev Demetris Palos after the service.

He said the family had asked if they could attend this service, and it “just grew from there”.

“But there’s always been a connection with the family,” he added.

A sombre Madikizela-Mandela walked through the aisle to the front row with her left arm linked in Zuma’s right, and sat in the front row with the president and Mandla, where they watched children being baptised before the prayer service began.

“If Tata Mandela was here, he would break all the protocol because of the children here in the front,” said the presiding bishop of the Methodist Church for southern Africa, Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa.

He said he also wished Madiba could look on the congregation as he was doing, to see the diversity of people that had come together.

“This is what you were fighting for,” he said, and called on Zuma to make an impromptu speech.

“Thank you very much for the response to the request we made after this unprecedented loss in our country; the departure of our father, our leader, our first democratic president, our icon,” said Zuma.

“We thank you for this, this will go a long way to healing our country.”

After the service, church members said they were still feeling the pain of Madiba’s death.

“I’m feeling so sad, my heart is broken,” said Margaret Vilakazi.

“He believed in forgiving and he forgave even those who kept him in jail for 27 years.

“Thank God that he gave us this son of this country,” Zuma said.

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The Star