Africa

Nelson Mandela death: Crowds gather to pay tribute

  • 7 December 2013
  • From the section Africa

Vigils are continuing across South Africa as thousands mourn the death of former leader Nelson Mandela.

People have been remembering his legacy, dancing and singing in front of Mr Mandela's former home in Soweto.

He is to be accorded a state funeral on Sunday 15 December, President Jacob Zuma announced.

Mr Mandela, who died on Thursday aged 95, spent 27 years in jail before becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994.

His administration replaced the racist white-minority regime that had enforced segregation of black and white people in a policy known as apartheid.

Mr Mandela went on to become one of the world's most respected statesmen.

South Africans across the country have been saying prayers, singing anti-apartheid songs and lighting candles.

Hundreds are gathered outside Mr Mandela's home in Johannesburg's northern suburb of Houghton where he died, and thousands of flowers laid outside have begun to resemble a wall.

They have been sharing memories of the former leader, recounting how they drew inspiration from his life.

A stage has been erected near the house, from where priests have led the crowd in prayers.

One of his grandsons. Mbuso Mandela, laid wreaths in his grandfather's memory.

People have also been gathering before the Union Buildings in the administrative capital Pretoria.

"I was born after he became president and I just remember the South Africa he left to us, the South Africa he gave to us," one mourner at the site was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"So today will be a good day to give him, some flowers to remember him and the South Africa he fought for."

President Zuma visited the house on Friday to pay his respects.

At a news conference, Mr Zuma outlined a week of events to mourn the former president.

  • Sunday will be an official day of prayer and reflection with special religious services
  • On Tuesday, a service of national mourning will be held at a 95,000-seater stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg
  • Mr Mandela's body will lie in state from Wednesday to Friday in the capital, Pretoria

Next Sunday's funeral will be held in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where Mr Mandela grew up. South African Airways has announced that it will provide extra flights to Qunu for mourners.

Hundreds have attended an interfaith remembrance service outside Cape Town's City Hall. The Johannesburg stock exchange suspended operations for five minutes on Friday as a mark of respect.

Criticism

"We sincerely thank all South Africans for the dignified manner in which they have respected and responded to the monumental loss of this international icon," Mr Zuma said.

Wall of flowers outside Mr Mandela's home in Houghton. 7 Dec 2013
Flowers outside Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton are taking the shape of a wall
A man lights a candle outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Mourners lit candles in Mr Mandela's memory across South Africa, such as here in Pretoria
Mourners gather outside former President Nelson Mandela"s house in Houghton, Johannesburg, on 6 December, 2013
Hundreds came to pay their respects outside Mr Mandela's home in Houghton
People take pictures with their cell phones as they pay a tribute to late former South African president Nelson Mandela outside his former house in Soweto on 6 December, 2013
Many also gathered outside Mr Mandela's former home in Soweto

Speaking in Cape Town, Mr Mandela's long-time ally, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, described him as an "incredible gift" to South Africa.

"He taught us extraordinarily practical lessons about forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation."

He also cited Mr Mandela's weaknesses, including "his steadfast loyalty to his organisation and some of his colleagues who ultimately let him down".

Mr Mandela had been receiving treatment at home for a recurring lung illness since September, when he was discharged from hospital.

As soon as the news of his death broke late on Thursday, small crowds began to gather in Soweto's Vilakazi Street, where Mr Mandela lived in the 1940s and 1950s.

Across the world, leaders, celebrities and members of the public have been paying tribute.

Pope Francis said Mr Mandela had forged "a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth".

Queen Elizabeth II said she was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr Mandela's death and said she remembered her meetings with him "with great warmth".

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home," said US President Barack Obama.

The White House has announced that Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be travelling to South Africa next week to pay their respects and take part in memorial events.

The opening of a summit of African leaders in Paris to discuss security was dedicated to Mr Mandela, with many of those present paying tribute.

Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings in Washington DC, Paris, across the UK and across South Africa. The European Union and world football body Fifa have also ordered their flags to be lowered.

In London, long queues formed outside the South African High Commission as people waited to sign a book of condolence.

Parliament in Pretoria is expected to hold a special joint session to reflect on Mr Mandela's life and legacy.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Johannesburg says South Africa will never have seen a state funeral like it, with leaders, dignitaries and other admirers of the former president expected from all over the world.

It will be a huge logistical challenge, especially given the remoteness of Qunu, our correspondent adds.

Mr Mandela died shortly before 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Thursday.

He won admiration around the world when he preached reconciliation after being freed from almost three decades of imprisonment.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with FW de Klerk, South Africa's last white president.

Mr de Klerk, who ordered Mr Mandela's release from jail, called him a "unifier" and said he had "a remarkable lack of bitterness".

People sing to pay a tribute to late former South African president Nelson Mandela outside his former house in Soweto on 6 December, 2013
Many mourners have been singing traditional songs in Mr Mandela's memory
People hold a poster reading "Tata Madiba" as they take part in an interfaith service for former President Nelson Mandela in Cape Town on 6 December, 2013
An interfaith remembrance service in Cape Town drew hundreds of people
A tribute sits amongst flowers at the base of a statue of Nelson Mandela at Parliament Square in London on 6 December, 2013
Mr Mandela's death has been marked around the world with people leaving tributes such as this one in London

Mr Mandela had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.

Roving diplomat

Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, as a law student.

He and other ANC leaders campaigned against apartheid.

Initially he campaigned peacefully but in the 1960s the ANC began to advocate violence, and Mr Mandela was made the commander of its armed wing.

He was arrested for sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, serving most of his sentence on Robben Island.

He was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation - a process completed by the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

Mr Mandela served a single term as president before stepping down in 1999.

After leaving office, he became South Africa's highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country's right to host the 2010 football World Cup.