6 Dec 2013

World mourns Mandela, South Africa’s ‘father’

Nelson Mandela’s funeral will be held on Sunday 15 December – His body will lie in state for three days from Wedneday 11 December – Service of national mourning on Tuesday 10 December.

The news of Mandela’s death was announced by South African President Jacob Zuma at 23.45 hours South Africa time.

“Our people have lost a father,” President Zuma said. “Nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.

“His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him their love.

Nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. Jacob Zuma, South African president

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

He continued: “What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves. And in him, we saw so much of ourselves.”

Crowds gathered at Mandela’s Johannesburg home, where flowers were laid and people sang in celebration of the leader’s life.

In the UK, flowers and a framed picture of Mandela were laid at the base of his statue in Parliament Square in the early hours and people gathered to pay their respects. One tribute on a card read: “Thank you for the sacrifices you made for all of us.”

Flags around the world, including at No. 10, the White House and the EU, will stand at half mast on Friday.

Mandela’s body will lie in state for three days in Pretoria, before a funeral is held on 15 December in Qunu, the village in the Eastern Cape where he was born.

A week of national mourning will include an open-air memorial service to be held on 10 December at Johennesberg’s Soccer City Stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup final.

World response

Leaders from the fields of politics, civil rights and religion have united in their praise and thanks for Mandela’s life.

US President Barack Obama said the world had lost an influential, courageous and “profoundly good” man.

Mr Obama said Mandela “no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.”

Speaking from the White House, Mr Obama said he was one of the countless millions around the world who was influenced by Mandela.

A statement from Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela last night. He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today.”

From Downing Street, Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement: “A great light has gone out in the world.

Nelson Mandela showed us the true meaning of courage, hope and reconciliation. Ed Miliband, Labour party leader

“Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time: a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.

The statement continued: “Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life. My heart goes out to his family – and to all in South Africa and around the world whose lives were changed through his courage.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “The world has lost the global hero of our age. Nelson Mandela showed us the true meaning of courage, hope and reconciliation.”

American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who has been in the UK this week, said: “The imprint he left on our world is everlasting.”

He added: “Nelson Mandela was a transformational figure. To say he was a ‘historical figure’ would not five him his full due.”

Symbol of resistance

South Africa’s first black president was admired around the world as a symbol of resistance to injustice for the way he opposed his country’s apartheid system. He spent 27 years in jail, more than half of them on the notorious Robben Island, before being released in 1990.

He also gained enormous respect for promoting reconciliation after the 1994 transition to multi-racial democracy following three centuries of white domination. Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one five-year term in presidential office.

The last public glimpse of the former president was a brief clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by President Zuma and other senior officials from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

At the time, the ANC assured the public that Mandela was “in good shape”, although the footage showed him thin and frail.

On Thursday Mr Mandela’s daughter Zindzi, who was in London to attend the premiere of a film about his life, told reporters he was “fine”, adding “he’s just old”.

In his statement, President Zuma said that Mr Mandela had died at just before seven o’clock UK time, “with his family around.”