‘We are here because of him’

2013-12-16 00:00

MORE than 2 000 people visited the Mandela Capture Site outside Howick to pay their respects to former president Nelson Mandela, on the day of his funeral.

Wearing ANC colours and a skirt made from fabric bearing Mandela’s image, Duduzile Gwamanda from Howick — whose husband Bonga, was incarcerated on Robben Island with Mandela — said she felt compelled to come to the site of his arrest on August 5, 1962.

“I couldn’t go to Qunu … but we live nearby in Howick. He means a lot to me … we are here because of him.”

Her friend Thandi Khumalo from Pietermaritzburg was sad she couldn’t pay her last respects in person in Qunu.

“We watched the funeral on television, but it wasn’t the same,” she added. “We have lost a man of peace, a man of truth, a man of integrity.”

Lisa Ladner of Pietermaritzburg, who brought flowers to the capture site, echoed those sentiments, saying, “I can’t imagine the world being without him. He was a man of strength, character and integrity.”

Another visitor, Odwa Mazwai from Johannesburg, said that over the past week he had learned many things he didn’t know about Mandela, which had only increased his respect for the former president.

“The man was simply inspirational,” he added.

An emotional Sajitha Maharaj from Pietermaritzburg, who had watched the funeral at home before travelling to Howick, said she wanted to teach her daughter about the history of the country and about Mandela, whom she described as an “icon in the world”.

During the funeral broadcast, hardly any residents made use of the public viewing areas set up by the council in Pietermaritzburg.

In Alexandra Park, officers from the South African Police Service, the Msunduzi traffic department and the fire department, municipal security personnel and a private ambulance crew outnumbered the mourners by about four to one.

Among those who watched the service in Alexandra Park was Nontsindiso Madikizela from Burger Street. She has no television at home but was determined to watch the funeral of a man she described as “very special”.

Another mourner, 19-year-old Yaseen Zondi from Edendale, said that while it was a sad day, all South Africans needed to honour Mandela by practising what he preached. “We need to give respect to one another,” he added.

Hundreds of Durban mourners attended a giant screen viewing of the late president’s funeral at People’s Park, Moses Mabhida Stadium, to pay their last respects yesterday.

Families with picnic baskets sat on the manicured gardens while those who had stayed at the park for the Madiba night vigil rested under the two large white marquees erected.

On Saturday evening, a few hundred people gathered at People’s Park for a night vigil.

Imke Summers and Ingrid Cockburn, from Pietermaritzburg and Greytown respectively, said they felt the need to attend the service “to pay their respects”.

“We were en route to Pietermaritzburg and decided that we would miss the ceremony if we kept on driving and that this was the closest we would get to Mandela’s funeral,” said Summers.

London-based Lola Oliyide said “she wanted to be with the people” and mourn collectively.

Keith Farr said the world will never see an event of this magnitude again and the media coverage, which has dominated the news landscape for 10 days globally, was warranted.

On Saturday, the Chatsworth Youth Centre, which was opened by Mandela over a decade ago, held a special memorial at which Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan said, via a Skype uplink, Mandela had great humility and respected everyone. “Without the ANC, Mandela would not have become the leader he became.”

Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi, in a cracking voice, said his ideal of a “common nation” must inspire us.

Leader of Greenpeace Kumi Naidoo said Mandela protested against the notion of “servants and masters”.

Social activist Jay Naidoo said there is a “stain on our democracy despite the South African miracle”.

“We need to find the Mandela in our hearts. We must reconnect with people. We weep that there is not a moral leader in the world to replace Mandela. We must reclaim his legacy — this democracy belongs to the people,” he said.

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