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South Africa mourns icon 'who belongs to the world'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

By WMN reporters

A child  stands outside Nelson Mandela's former home in Soweto after South Africa awoke to the news of his death

A child stands outside Nelson Mandela's former home in Soweto after South Africa awoke to the news of his death

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Flags were lowered to half mast yesterday as people across South Africa commemorated Nelson Mandela with song, tears and prayers.

The government has prepared funeral ceremonies that will draw leaders and other dignitaries from around the globe.

As the news of his death at 95 spread across the world, people in the black township of Soweto took to the streets near the house where he once lived, singing and dancing.

Many South Africans heard the news of his death upon waking on Friday, and they flocked to his home in Johannesburg's leafy Houghton neighbourhood.

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In a church service in Cape Town, retired archbishop Desmond Tutu said the anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa's first black president would want South Africans themselves to be his "memorial" by adhering to the values of unity and democracy that he embodied.

"All of us here in many ways amazed the world, a world that was expecting us to be devastated by a racial conflagration," he said, recalling how Mr Mandela helped unite South Africa as it dismantled apartheid and prepared for all-race elections in 1994.

In closing his prayer, he said: "God, thank you for the gift of Madiba."

Mr Mandela was a "very human person" with a sense of humour who took interest in people around him, said F W de Klerk, South Africa's last apartheid-era president. The two men negotiated the end of apartheid, finding common cause in often tense circumstances, and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

In summarising Mr Mandela's legacy, Mr de Klerk said: "Never and never again should there be in South Africa the suppression of anyone by another."

The liberation icon's grandson, Mandla Mandela, said he was strengthened by the knowledge that his grandfather was finally resting.

"All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family," Mandla Mandela said in a statement. "The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people."

He said the late statesman was the embodiment of strength, struggle, and survival. As a grandfather, Mr Mandela would always be remembered as kind-hearted, generous and wise.

Mandla Mandela expressed gratitude for the national and international support his family had received during Mr Mandela's long health problems.

"We in the family recognise that Madiba belongs not only to us but to the entire world. The messages we have received since last night have heartened and overwhelmed us."

Helen Zille, leader of the country's official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, and premier of the Western Cape, the only province not controlled by the ANC, commented: "We all belong to the South African family – and we owe that sense of belonging to Madiba. That is his legacy. It is why there is an unparalleled outpouring of national grief at his passing.

"It is commensurate with the contribution he made to our country."

Mr Mandela will be buried on Sunday, December 15. A memorial service in a Johannesburg stadium will be held for the anti-apartheid leader on Tuesday.

Mr Mandela's body will lie in state at government buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday until the burial.

Tomorrow will be a national day of prayer and reflection in South Africa.

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