COLOMBO – The Proteas marked the centennial celebration of former President Nelson Mandela’s birth on Wednesday with a special wreath-laying ceremony in Sri Lanka’s capital.
Faf du Plessis’ team were the honoured guests of South Africa’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives, Ms Robin Marks, where they were the main attraction at Colombo’s Independence Square.
The Proteas, along with the Diplomatic-Corps, formed a guard of honour and completed a floral wreath tribute to Madiba, before taking a ceremonial Long Walk to Freedom march, led by Marks and Du Plessis through Independence Square.
“We have been focusing quite a lot on telling the story of South Africa’s reconciliation, and our journey to nation-building and what it took for us to be a stable democracy,” Marks exclusively told Independent Media in Colombo.
“Today is a celebration of that. We share his legacy with the Sri Lankans, and Madiba’s enduring value that speaks to peace, human rights and gender equality.
“We are overwhelmed, and so honoured and privileged to have our national team here.
“They formed a guard of honour, and our captain Faf du Plessis spoke beautifully of what Mandela means to the team, and he spoke about the values of Madiba and what he stands for in terms of how it is ingrained in the Proteas’ ‘DNA’, and how we are on the road to transformation.”
The Sri Lankans hold Mandela in particular high esteem, with various other events such as a seminar that will take also place at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, led by Marks and the Proteas.
There will also be a Nelson Mandela exhibition and film screening scheduled at the Colombo Public Library next Tuesday, followed by a children’s Mandela story-telling session at the Colombo Library grounds.
Proteas batsmen Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram were thrilled to be part of the celebrations.
“Obviously the day for us is to commemorate what he meant to us and the people of the world. Mandela was a man of great stature and example for everyone to follow. A man who had a vision on how he wanted everyone to be seen as equals,” said Bavuma.
Markram added: “Obviously a massive icon back at home. He united our country through sport.
“Obviously being sportsmen, we hold him very closely to our hearts. We thoroughly enjoyed the occasion today, and will always remember his significance and importance to our country.”