SA pre­pares to bid farewell

Coun­try gears up for world’s big­gest fu­neral Obama, Prince Charles on guest list

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JAN CRONJE, RAB­BIE SERUMULA, JA­NIS KIN­N­EAR and SAPA

SOUTH Africa is pre­par­ing for what is be­ing touted as the big­gest fu­neral in his­tory, with world lead­ers in­clud­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, UK Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and even Prince Charles ap­par­ently on the guest list.

A mourn­ing pe­riod of 10 days has been set aside for the farewell to world peace icon and South Africa’s first demo­crat­i­cal­ly­elected pres­i­dent, Nel­son Man­dela.

From Wed­nes­day to Fri­day the anti-apartheid hero’s body will lie in state, re­port­edly in a glasstopped cof­fin, at the Union Build­ings in Pre­to­ria.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has mean­while de­clared tomorrow a day of “na­tional prayer and re­flec­tion” in Man­dela’s hon­our.

In the Western Cape there will be op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to pay their re­spects at 160 “Places of Trib­ute”, where they can sign con­do­lence books and leave flo­ral tributes (See Page 8 for full de­tails).

Pre­mier He­len Zille an­nounced yes­ter­day that all trib­ute sites would be open from this morn­ing.

Fu­neral plans in­clude Man­dela be­ing laid to rest in his home town of Qunu in the East­ern Cape next Sun­day.

Zuma called on South Africans to gather to­morow “in halls, churches, mosques, tem­ples, syn­a­gogues and in their homes for prayer ser­vices and med­i­ta­tion, re­flect­ing on the life of Madiba and his con­tri­bu­tion to our coun­try and the world”.

At the Grand Pa­rade last night a large crowd gath­ered for an in­ter­faith ser­vice in hon­our of Man­dela while a bank of flow­ers and mes­sages of thanks, tributes and fa­mous Man­dela quotes were placed by Capeto­ni­ans in front of the City Hall bal­cony, where, in 1990, Man­dela gave his first pub­lic speech af­ter his re­lease from prison.

Man­dela’s of­fi­cial me­mo­rial ser­vice will take place on Tues­day at the FNB Sta­dium in Jo­han­nes­burg. Zuma said me­mo­rial ser­vices would be held in prov­inces and re­gions dur­ing the mourn­ing pe­riod.

“We will also spend it cel­e­brat­ing a life well lived, a life that we must all em­u­late for the bet­ter­ment of our coun­try and Africa.”

The pres­i­dent thanked South Africans for the dig­nity, re­spect and sup­port they had pro­vided to the Man­dela fam­ily.

Mean­while, strug­gle stal­wart Bantu Holomisa has said that Man­dela lay on his deathbed in his fi­nal mo­ments, sur­rounded by those who loved him, in­clud­ing his wife, Graça Machel, his fam­ily, el­ders from his Thembu clan and a pri­est.

“I can’t de­scribe what hap­pened,” Holomisa said. “I went into Tata’s bed­room. There were a few peo­ple there. I could see things were not the same … I was priv­i­leged to be in­vited by the fam­ily to see Madiba in his last few hours.”

News on the heads of state headed for South Africa to pay their re­spects in­cludes an un­named source say­ing that Obama and his en­tourage have booked out the Radis­son Blu ho­tel in Sand­ton.

It is be­lieved that Obama will travel with his wife, Michelle, and daugh­ters, Sasha and Malia. The White House said in a state­ment that Obama had al­ready phoned Zuma to ex­press “his heart­felt con­do­lences on the death of for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela”.

“The pres­i­dent con­veyed how pro­foundly Man­dela’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­am­ple of moral courage, kind­ness, and hu­mil­ity in­flu­enced his own life, as well as those of mil­lions around the world,” the state­ment said.

The UK’s Daily Mail re­ported that other well-known per­son­al­i­ties ex­pected in South Africa in­cluded me­dia mogul Oprah Win­frey and for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and his wife, Hil­lary. They also named U2 front­man Bono as ex­pected to at­tend the fu­neral.

ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe, mean­while, said the ANC would “all” move to the East­ern Cape next Satur­day, prior to the state fu­neral.

DE­CEM­BER 7 2013

PIC­TURE: LEON LESTRADE

FLO­RAL TRIB­UTE: Stella Buck­land adds her flow­ers to a bank of flo­ral tributes on the Grand Pa­rade, where hun­dreds of peo­ple turned out for an in­ter-faith ser­vice last night.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

IN­DIA MOURNS: School­child­ren hold can­dles and portraits of Nel­son Man­dela dur­ing a prayer cer­e­mony at a school in the south­ern In­dian city of Chen­nai.

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