SA leaders’ tributes to ‘father of the nation’

6 December 2013

“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” South African President Jacob Zuma said when he announced news that Nelson Mandela, the country’s beloved icon of reconciliation and peace, had died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg on Thursday night.

South Africa’s flags will remain at half mast until after Mandela’s funeral.

Madiba taught us how to come together – Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu lauded his compatriot and fellow Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela on Friday as the man who taught a deeply divided nation how to come together.

“Over the past 24 years Madiba taught us how to come together and to believe in ourselves and each other. He was a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison,” Tutu said in a statement.

“The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on. As we enter the mourning period, as a nation, we do so with the greatest dignity and respect, because that is what we owe Madiba and ourselves.”

Mandela’s passing marks the end of a historic era – former president Thabo Mbeki

“Earlier tonight, my wife Zanele and I learnt with immense distress and profound sadness of the passing away of one of the greatest sons of our people, Esteemed Member of the Order of Mapungubwe and Nobel Peace laureate, Isithwalandwe President Nelson Mandela,” Thabo Mbeki said in a statement late on Thursday night.

“His departure represents a very sad moment of grief for his family. But it also constitutes a personal loss for us because over many decades, he served both as our guide and one of our fathers.

“President Mandela, Madiba, and his generation of freedom fighters walked their long walk and made enormous sacrifices which eventually led to our freedom in 1994. His passing signals the end of an historic era represented by the heroic deeds of his generation.”

A pall hangs over Parliament – National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu

A “real pain chills all who work in [Parliament’s] precinct”, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, the son of one of Mandela’s best friends Walter Sisulu, said on Friday. “It is a pain we share with millions of people throughout our land, our continent Africa, and beyond.

“After Mandela’s release from prison in February 1990, he promised during his first address at the Cape Town City Hall to place the remaining years of his life in the hands of the people.

“It was a promise he fulfilled in countless ways,” Sisulu said. “It is a promise, to which we, the elected representatives of the people, must recommit ourselves, if our mourning today is not to be reduced to mere maudlin.”

Sisulu said that a special joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament would be held soon to reflect on Mandela’s life and legacy.

We all have to learn from his example – Neren Rau, CEO of the SA Chamber of Business

“Mandela will be remembered as a political visionary who remained concerned with the everyday issues of his fellow citizens,” Neren Rau, chief executive of the SA Chamber of Commerce (Sacci), said on Friday.

“Sacci wishes to add its voice to calls from numerous quarters that South Africa should honour Mandela’s life by reflecting his legacy of nation building and companionship across all walks of life,” Rau said. “We all have to learn from his example to make this world better for all.”

It would be wrong not to celebrate the life he lived – Fedusa general secretary Dennis George

“Tata Madiba is undoubtedly the biggest icon ever to emerge from South Africa, and his contribution to South African history can never be sufficiently emphasised,” Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) general secretary Dennis George said. “Although we are mourning the passing of Madiba, it would be wrong not to celebrate the life that he lived.”

It’s so hard to say goodbye – Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille

“Living in South Africa has been living with him inside all of us. And so it’s so hard to say goodbye,” Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said. “I think we fooled ourselves into thinking that Madiba could live forever. We wanted him to stay alive for us.

“The pain of letting go just seems too great. But in the end, we have to stop thinking about ourselves. After this man gave us so much we have to let him rest.”

We should be inspired by his life – film maker Anant Singh

South Africa has lost its father, an exceptional human being and a hero to the world, film maker Anant Singh said. “There has never been anyone quite like him and there will never be. We should be inspired by his life and celebrate him with our love. We will all miss him dearly.”

Heroes never die – Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s personal assistant

“As sad as it makes me that I will never walk into a room again and see his generous infectious smile … I have come to terms with the fact that Madiba’s legacy is not dependent on his presence,” Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s long-serving personal assistant, said in a statement.

“His legacy will not only live on in everything that has been named after him, the books, the images, the movies. It will live on in how we feel when we hear his name, the respect and love, the unity he inspired in us as a country, but particularly how we relate to one another.”

He embodied our hopes and dreams – Brand South Africa chairperson Chichi Maponya

“Madiba embodied our hopes and the realisation of our dreams,” Brand South Africa chairperson Chichi Maponya said. “We are in deep mourning following this loss of indescribable magnitude which is today reverberating across the world.”

Maponya said “one of the greatest gifts [Mandela] has bequeathed to this nation is the courage and strength to believe in a tomorrow that is better than today, a tomorrow in which our people live in dignity and prosperity”.

SAinfo reporter