Mourners thronged late Nelson Mandela’s former Soweto home, Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday to pay their last respects to the former South African president just as his burial plans were also announced.
President Jacob Zuma announced that the anti-apartheid hero would be buried in a state funeral on Sunday, December 15, 2013, in his ancestral hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province, alongside three of his children who had been deceased.
Zuma also stated that an official memorial service would be held for Mandela on December 10, 2013, at the First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
Earlier, Zuma had announced ten days of national mourning following Mandela’s death, which had drawn tributes from across the world. World leaders, politicians, celebrities and others have expressed condolences on the death of the statesman. His death was also said to have brought traffic to the social media.
In his speech on Friday, Zuma said the day Mandela would be laid to rest would be a “national day of prayer and reflection”, in which the country’s citizens would gather in religious houses to pray and meditate on the life of the African icon.
The burial arrangement also stated that Mandela’s body would lie in state at the seat of government in Pretoria from Wednesday, December 11-13, 2013.
But in spite of the profound sense of sadness that had befallen the nation, mourners at Mandela’s home danced and sang freedom songs in honour of the late anti-apartheid crusader.
Some mourners placed flowers near the home, while others carried photo posters of the late freedom fighter.
In Soweto township, where Mandela lived before he was imprisoned for 27 years, posters of his face adorned streets. Residents surrounded his former red brick house, chanting songs of freedom and the National Anthem.
Two men made a shrine of flowers and candles. “He came here to Soweto as a lawyer and he led us. When he came out of jail in 1994, after 27 years, he did not come out a bitter man and encourage us to fight. No, he came out with a message of peace,” said one of them, Mbulelo Radebe, 37.
At Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton neighbourhood of Johannesburg, people gathered at the foot of the famous 6m bronze statue of Mandela, paying homage to the leader.
A white mourner, Sonja Pocock, who was in tears, said, “For 23 years, I walked a path with this man since he was released. I’m from the old regime. He’s like my grandfather. He is my grandfather.”
Another mourner, Krezaan Schoeman, said, “I admired him. He stood for something, for freedom and equality. Even if some say he was a terrorist, he stood for his beliefs. Everybody’s got a right to life. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white. That’s what he stood for. And for forgiveness.”
Also, near Mandela’s home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, children spelled out with rocks “We love you Mandela.”
Some mourners wept as they lit candles, but still, others danced and sang in celebration of a life that has been widely described as “well lived.”
Indeed, the celebration of Mandela’s life was on an international dimension as memorials popped up from Los Angeles to Chicago, where mourners placed flowers and candles in front of murals bearing his likeness. In Washington, crowds gathered in front of the South African Embassy.
Thousands of miles away by the steps of South Africa House on Trafalgar Square, London, were flowers, which had been placed by mourners.
In his Thursday address, Zuma said, “Our nation has lost its greatest son, our people have lost a father.” He said, “Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
Meanwhile, Mandela’s eldest grandson, Mandla, said his family has been overwhelmed by the global outpouring of support since the passing on of the 95-year-old former president.
Mandla, whose full name is Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, said he was “deeply saddened,” by Mandela’s loss. He, however, added that he was “strengthened by the knowledge that he is now finally resting.”
“All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family. The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people,” Mandla said in a statement, the first public comment from Mandela’s family since his death.
Mandla said his grandfather displayed a fighting spirit during his protracted battle with lung infection in the months preceding death.
He said, “He is an embodiment of strength, struggle and survival, principles that are cherished by humanity. As a grandfather, we have all known him as a kind hearted, generous and wise person who was always prepared to offer us advice on how to be good members of our communities.
“Celebrating his long life is the best accolade we can give him. Celebrating his contribution to society will make him smile in his resting place. We look forward to continue our interaction with him as one of our beloved ancestors.”A retired archbishop, Desmond Tutu, said, “He transcended race and class in his personal actions, through his warmth and through his willingness to listen and to empathise with others.