Friday, December 5, 2014 11:18 am
South Africans on Friday marked one year since the death of Nelson Mandela with services, blasting vuvuzelas and a cricket match to honour his enormous legacy as an anti-apartheid icon and global beacon of hope.
An interfaith service kicked off the day’s events in Pretoria, at the Freedom Park amphitheatre dedicated to the country’s liberation heroes.
“Twenty years of democracy has been possible because of Mandela,” tribal chief Ron Martin said as the sun rose over the Pretoria hills and the smell of herbs burning in spiralled antelope horns wafted over the ceremony.
“Any sense of pride was frowned upon by apartheid,” he said, “but we are reclaiming that today.”
Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the base of a five-metre statue of a smiling Madiba, the clan name by which South Africans affectionately call their nation’s favourite son.
“The body gave in but Madiba’s spirit never, never changed, it was always the same until the end,” Mandela’s widow Graca Machel said before laying a huge wreath of white flowers with pale pink roses at the base of the statue.
She then joined hands with members of Mandela’s family for a prayer.
“Madiba is, in spirit, the same even today,” said Machel. “I know Madiba is smiling, Madiba is happy because he is amongst the family he chose to build.”
She was “numb” when her husband died, but said she now remembers him as “tall and proud.”
During the service, bells tolled for three minutes and seven seconds — followed by three minutes of silence: a six-minute and seven-second dedication to Mandela’s 67 years of public service.
His old comrade, Ahmed Kathrada, imprisoned with him on Robben Island, also paid tribute to his “elder brother”.
“I miss him not only as a political leader, I miss him as an elder brother,” said Kathrada, his voice shaking.
“When Madiba died, I asked who should I turn to, I am still looking to somebody.”
A long list of other events dedicated to Mandela were set to take place into the weekend and beyond, including motorcycle rides and performances.
South Africans were also finding their own ways of remembering the former president who led the country out of the dark days of apartheid after 27 years in prison.
Tattoo studios for example have reported an ever-growing demand for Mandela-inspired ink.
Fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu called on South Africans to emulate Mandela’s example in a statement to mark the anniversary.
“Our obligation to Madiba is to continue to build the society he envisaged, to follow his example,” Tutu said.
“A society founded on human rights, in which all can share in the rich bounty God bestowed on our country. In which all can live in dignity, together. A society of better tomorrows for all.”
– Motorbikes for Mandela –
The iconic leader passed away at the age of 95 last year after a long illness.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa led the three-minute silence in the morning, followed by a friendly cricket match, dubbed the Mandela Legacy Cup, between South Africa’s national rugby and cricket teams at 1300 GMT.
At the weekend, artists and performers will hold centre stage at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has launched an exhibition in honour of the life and work of its namesake.
Motorcyclists across the country have also been called on to dedicate their traditional Sunday morning rides to the anti-apartheid hero.
A five-kilometre (three-mile) Nelson Mandela Remembrance Walk will be held in Pretoria on December 13, passing some of the city’s historic landmarks, including the Union Buildings, South Africa’s seat of government.
The next day, the city’s inaugural marathon will dedicate its last mile to Madiba.
Mandela’s death was met with a worldwide outpouring of grief.
He set South Africa on a course towards reconciliation after he emerged unbowed from nearly three decades in prison in 1990 and became the country’s first president to be elected by universal suffrage in 1994.
His one-time jailer FW de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993, called on South Africans to honour his legacy.
“Although Nelson Mandela is no longer physically with us his legacy remains to guide us,” he said in a statement.