JOHANNESBURG –– South Africans mourned today the death of the man who led the fight to end the system of apartheid here and then went on to lead the country itself.
“We will always love Madiba for teaching us that it is possible to overcome hatred and anger in order to build a new nation and a new society,” President Jacob Zuma told reporters today, using the affectionate clan name shared by his countrymen for Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at age 95.
He will be buried in a state funeral on Sunday, December 15, in his ancestral hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province in a state funeral, Zuma said.
Sunday will be a National Day Of Prayer And Reflection, in which people throughout the nation will gather in places of worship to conduct “prayer services and meditation reflecting on the life” of Mandela, Zuma said.
The official memorial service will be held Tuesday in First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
From Wednesday through next Friday, his body will lie in state at the seat of government in Pretoria, where he served as president, Zuma said, adding: “Long live Madiba!”
Zuma had announced the death late yesterday in a nationally televised address.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son, our people have lost a father,” he said. “Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
On the grass near Mandela’s home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, children spelled out with rocks: We Love You, Mandela.
Others wept as they lit candles; still others danced and sang in celebration of a life well lived.
His death was felt around the world. Nearly 8,000 miles north of Johannesburg, in Paris, leaders from 53 African countries attending a summit on peace and security observed a minute of silence for Mandela on today.
In recent years, the nation’s first black president had battled health issues that included multiple hospitalizations for treatment of a recurring lung infection.
Many South Africans didn’t get the news until this morning.
“I woke up and was shocked when I saw it on television,” said Wilson Mudau, a cab driver in Johannesburg. “It’s sad, but what can we do? Let him rest in peace. It’s time . . . Madiba has worked so hard to unite us.”
In Soweto township, where Mandela lived before he was imprisoned for 27 years, giant posters of his face adorned
streets. Residents surrounded his former red brick house on a busy street and sang songs of freedom.
Memorials popped up from Los Angeles to Chicago, where mourners placed flowers and candles in front of murals bearing his likeness. In Washington, crowds gathered in front of the South African Embassy.
In Adelaide, Australia, cricket fans observed a moment of silence.
“I admired Mandela [because] he had not poisoned his heart,” said Leo Udtohan of Bohol, Philippines. “He learned to forgive despite the horror he experienced while in prison.”
At New York City’s Apollo Theatre in Harlem, which Mandela had visited in 1990, the marquee bore a tribute.
“In memory of Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013,” it said. “He changed our world.” (CNN)