Parliamentarians honour Mandela at special sitting

2013-12-09 18:21

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Parliament was draped in Madiba memorabilia as the country’s political leaders paid tribute to the late statesman.

A joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament – the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces – was held today to commemorate Mandela’s life.

Outside the National Assembly chamber, people wrote on a wall of remembrance and queued in the baking afternoon sun to gain access to the public gallery.

Some sat on the steps in front of the building, watching the speeches being broadcast live on screens.

Behind the podium, South Africa’s deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe thanked the Mandela family for sharing their father with the country, adding that Madiba’s political career changed their lives irrevocably.

He slammed materialism sitting “cheek to jowl” alongside abject poverty in South African society.

Opposition leader Helen Zille said: “Today our thoughts and prayers are with Madiba’s immediate family, here in the gallery with us.”

She quoted civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr: “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”

Zille said she thought it helpful to think of freedom as “earned” instead of a right, adding that we still have a long walk ahead of us.

North West Premier Thandi Modise said: “Madiba, our icon of the world, has gone to join his ancestors,” which was met with applause.

She added: “We’re proud Madiba taught us in the ANC. Even though he was not flawless.

“He taught us not to answer racism with racism. Not to answer hatred with hatred. Without his leadership, things may have gone horribly wrong

“Maybe our sadness stems from our uncertainty in our ability to emanate his greatness.”

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s speech, which was peppered with stinging references to the past, elicited a mixed response and was cut short due to time constraints.

The audience grew rowdy and there were calls for order.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille will attend a prayer meeting at the OR Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha tonight.

On Wednesday afternoon, local acts Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Freshlyground will perform for free at the Cape Town Stadium, which is expected to hold up to 60 000 people.

Coupons, obtainable at Computicket and Shoprite/Checkers, allow access to the bash, which will start at 4pm. Free public transport is available to coupon holders too.

Organisers said they were still in negotiations with a “major international artist” to join the line-up.

Central city traffic is expected to remain congested due to road closures around the Grand Parade.

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