9 December 2013
Peace, forgiveness, caring, justice and equality for all – South Africans should hold on to the values that Nelson Mandela lived by, President Jacob Zuma told the congregation at the Bryanston Methodist Church in Johannesburg on Sunday as the country held a day of national reflection and prayer for Madiba.
The 95-year-old former statesman passed away on Thursday, 5 December at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg after a lengthy battle with a lung infection.
“We should not forget the values that Madiba stood for and sacrificed his life for,” Zuma said. “He stood for freedom, he fought against those who oppressed others … He actively participated to remove the oppressor to liberate the people of this country. When our struggle came to an end, he preached and practised reconciliation to make those who had been fighting to forgive one another and become one nation.”
Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and grandson Mandla Mandela, and African National Congress (ANC) treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, were among those present at the Bryanston church service.
Mkhize told SAnews after the service that it was important for South Africans to “re-live the values of our late former president – those are unity, reconciliation and compassion – so that we create a better South Africa. We’ve got a beacon in Nelson Mandela to take our country forward.”
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, addressing a capacity congregation at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto, said Mandela “personified unity and diversity even while in prison. Through all that he endured, he learned not to hate. Instead he chose to see goodness in every person.”
Motlanthe quoted Mandela, who said of himself that he “was not a saint, but a sinner who keeps trying”.
Young and old filled the seats at the Grace Bible Church while others watched the service from monitors outside the church hall.
Church member Margaret Lukhele, who came with her family of eight for the service, said they would “forever remain proudly South Africans because of Tata. He walked the long road back to freedom, made every South African to be free and to live free.”
Also on Sunday, South Africans from various faiths gathered together under a white marquee to reflect on Mandela’s legacy at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg.
Former Cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale said South Africans grieved together “while understanding that 95 years of life were well lived and should be celebrated. It is a life worthy of celebration.”
Mandela’s great-grandson, Luvuyo Mandela, thanked the public for the support the family had received, adding: “What happens next is that we pick up from where he left off.”
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said: “The greatest tribute we can make to Madiba is to live like him. He showed us tolerance and generosity of spirit.”
Anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada recounted a story Madiba had once told him, of a conversation he’d had with a little girl who had called him a “stupid old man”. Kathrada said he would remember Mandela “as a politician who could laugh at himself”.