Discussing Mandela funeral plans made us weep – Cyril Ramaphosa

2013-12-06 14:50

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Discussing Project X, the ANC’s programme of action after Nelson Mandela’s death, was like “peeling an onion and it kept bringing tears to your eyes”, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has said.

Ramaphosa was speaking to City Press at Pretoria’s St George Hotel where the ANC was supposed to hold its national executive committee (NEC) this weekend.

The full meeting was cancelled, though some NEC members still met to discuss logistics. Ramaphosa described it as “the saddest meeting I have ever attended”.

“We met initially in the morning at 8am as the subcommittee that’s dealing with Project X because we’ve been in a committee that’s working on Project X for a long time.

“Even as we met, it was a sad moment as we dealt with each detail (about the funeral). It was like with every detail you were peeling an onion and it kept bringing tears to your eyes because you were dealing with what happens on day two, what happens on day nine and day 10,” said Ramaphosa, as glum-looking NEC members boarded buses headed for Mandela’s Houghton home.

“It was sad in that meeting for those people who worked with comrade Madiba at close range, because we knew him and his presence among us, even though he was no longer actively with us every day, just his spirit and the knowledge that he is there watching us encouraged us to cancel the meeting.

“The mood was sombre. We were almost in disbelief that he has left us and even though many tears were shed you could also feel that people were crying inside. It was one of the saddest meetings that I’ve had to attend. It is just as well that we had the wisdom to terminate the meeting and not carry on.”

Ramaphosa said it was clear as “lots of tears flowed” that the ANC leaders did not want to discuss Mandela’s death.

“But that just shows you the weight that was on our shoulders as we were dealing with this. It’s a weighty matter – we knew this day would arrive but we never wanted to countenance it,” said Ramaphosa.

“We’re mourning with the nation and the ANC as a chief mourner is deeply saddened by this. Madiba is such a great loss to the organisation especially and that is why we want to carry on the work that he started.

“On the one side we’re sad. On the other side we are filled with determination that we dare not let him down. That is the important thing, that we dare not let the father of this nation down,” said Ramaphosa.

“We’ve been very lucky to have had a gallery of leaders like OR Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela and I single out these three because they worked so closely together and they trusted each other completely. They were different but they trusted each other and that is the legacy that we should carry forward,” said Ramaphosa.

City Press spotted other leaders, including ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize and Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele, but they declined to be interviewed.

Magdelene Molantoa, who has sold ANC paraphernalia at NEC meetings for years, said today’s meeting was different.

“We didn’t want to unpack when we got here in the morning, but they pleaded with us to stay. Usually when leaders arrive for meetings they greet us, but that was not the case today as all of them went straight inside (for) the meeting. You could see it was as difficult for them as it was for us,” said the ANC member, who lives in Windmill Park in Boksburg.

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