Thousands of South Africans Bid Emotional Goodbye to Mandela
South Africans lined up for second day to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela as his body lies in state in the capital, Pretoria.
Mourners began gathering before 6 a.m. local time today at three locations in the city to be bussed to the Union Buildings, where Mandela’s body lies within a temporary mahogany structure in an open-air amphitheater. Thousands were undeterred after hours of waiting and undergoing security checks yesterday.
“My heart is very sore,” Jeanette Hadebe, 71, said yesterday after visiting Mandela’s casket. “He was our hope for so long. But it’s time for him to rest.”
Mandela, who was 95 years old when he died on Dec. 5, spent 27 years in prison for fighting to end white minority rule and won universal acclaim for negotiating a peaceful transition to democracy. He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 when the ruling African National Congress won multi-racial elections.
Julius Malema, a critic of President Jacob Zuma’s ruling African National Congress party, led hundreds of supporters of his Economic Freedom Fighters party in a march to Mandela’s house in Johannesburg today where they laid flowers.
“We are here to say to President Mandela, ‘Thank you for ushering in political freedom’,” said Malema, addressing his members in front of the flowers piled at the house in Houghton. “Every generation has got a mission. You delivered political freedom in 1994 and those who came after you, they failed to deliver us economic freedom.”
Malema, who was expelled from the ANC last year, is facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering. He says the claims are politically motivated.
Outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Mandela’s head and shoulders are visible behind a glass covering. Indelible ink, used during elections, will be applied to mourners’ fingers to prevent multiple viewings, the government said yesterday.
Mandela’s remains will be transported on Dec. 14 to Qunu, the village where he spent part of his childhood in the Eastern Cape province and where he will be buried the following day.
The lines of people waiting to view Mandela’s body were reminiscent of those before the 1994 vote.
“I felt very emotional,” said Al-Marie Chaffey, 47, who traveled to Pretoria from Johannesburg with her husband and 16-year-old son. “My wish is that each of us as individuals will take his legacy forward and never forget what he did and why.”
About 40,000 people attended a memorial for Mandela at the Cape Town Stadium yesterday that included speeches by Helen Zille, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, and Trevor Manuel, minister in the office of President Jacob Zuma. Performers including Annie Lennox, Johnny Clegg and Ladysmith Black Mambazo entertained the crowd with songs.
Zille, who had attended Mandela’s wake in Pretoria, said “his face shows he is at peace.”
Former U.S. President George W. Bush said Mandela was a man of “enormous character” at a conference in Lagos today. “One of the hardest things to do is forgive,” he said. “His example is one of courage and perseverance. His greatest contribution was the lesson of forgiveness.”
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