By Mzukona Mantshontsho
Showers of blessings indeed poured on the memorial service of International Icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto -Johannesburg on Tuesday 10 December where the world gathered to mourn and celebrate the renowned statesman.
Much like the showers during his inauguration in May 1994, people attending his memorial service said, ‘these are showers of blessings and we welcome them, we wouldn’t miss this day for anything’. “The Madiba and Dlomo ancestors and all our fallen heroes and heroines in the African National Congress (ANC) and struggle for freedom are saying welcome son of the soil Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, they are blessing us with these rains, so we are not complaining,” said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa- Ngcakula.
Some of the mourners slept outside the venue, with others coming in as early as 6am. Whether raining or shining, nothing would have dampened the spirits of all the mourners attending. As much as the mood was sombre, so was the element of celebration in terms of singing and toyi-toying in the stadium, celebrating the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
Programme Directors on the day were Deputy ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC National Chairperson Baleka Mbete. A total of 91 Heads of State, royalty and celebrities in and around the world attended the service, compared to the over 150 Heads of State during his inauguration – only Nelson Mandela could pull out such a crowd – probably one the biggest gatherings in the whole world, if you asked me! As the Heads of State were coming in and being welcomed, Pastor Mahlangu and the whole stadium burst into song “Siyabonga Jesu ngoMandela!”…..We thank you Jesus for Nelson Mandela!
Very disturbing was the booing that started when President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma came into the stadium. Programme Director Cyril Ramaphosa had to call the stadium to order.
The one important and compelling message from our leaders within the country from all industries and walks of life and the world in general being: “Let us live the values that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela stood for as a nation”, that would be the one and only appropriate way we would bid farewell to the father of our nation.
The values he stood for being; A unifier who strongly believed in unity in our diversity as a country, bringing people together – he excelled at that, forgiveness over revenge, peace, love for our children and our neighbours, giving back to our communities, doing away with corruption in our societies, selflessness in serving our communities and our neighbours, giving confidence to the disempowered, maintaining hopefulness within communities, respect for each other as human beings.
Nelson Mandela once said: “As I walked out of that gate (prison after 27 years) I knew that I had to leave the pain, anger and hatred I had behind, otherwise I would still be in jail”. He went on to say: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended”.
Tata Andrew Mlangeni spent years with Nelson Mandela in Robben Island as prisoner number 46764 next to Mandela cell said, “Nelson Mandela gave hope and respect to all he came in contact with, his legacy will remain with us forever”. Let us uphold the values of Nelson Mandela, God Bless Mandela, may your soul rest in peace”.
General Thanduxolo Mandela paid tribute on behalf of the Mandela Family: “We are thankful for a wonderful life, our gratitude to the religious communities and all communities. Madiba was a humble man, although he was great – he believed in service to others and setting free those in bondage. Aaaaaah Dalibunga, you will always be remembered! Madiba is smiling at us to see unity and brotherhood in different nations. Mandela stood for peace, justice, humanity and uplifting the underprivileged. We recommit ourselves to the spirit of Ubuntu!! Siyabulela Dalibunga!”
Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren paid tribute with very touching poetry to the excitement of all the mourners at the stadium.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said, “Our greatest condolences to Graca Machel, Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the whole family, as well as the South African population. Africa is an extra-ordinary continent that brought us Mandela. His heart was larger than this stadium. May he rest in peace…LALA NGOXOLO MADIBA….NDIYABULELA….thank you very much!!!!
Songstress Sibongile Khumalo led a plea for Africa in song, “God Bless Africa and its Sons and Daughters”. A fitting song for the occasion of Mandela’s memorial service.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on behalf of the African Union (AU) Commission: “Africa is in mourning for the loss of its GREATEST leader. We stand proud of you Madiba, for standing for freedom, solidarity, defence of human dignity, and empowering the disempowered. Our condolences to Mama Graca, Mama Winnie, the children, and the nation. Tata, we thank you for the countless lessons. Tata, Africa shall be at peace, Africa shall invest in its children and women, Africa shall prosper, HAMBA KAHLE TATA, QHAWE LAMAQHAWE!!! Have your well deserved rest, hamba kahle Madiba!!!!
“No matter what the situation, my life is in your hands Jesus”, was a song by Kirk Franklin in collaboration with Joyous Celebration.
US President Barack Obama – the stadium came to a standstill: “It is an honour to be here to celebrate the life of none other than Nelson Mandela, thank you for sharing him with us. Nelson Mandela is an Icon, he resisted being called an Icon – he preferred to be humble, he called himself a sinner who keeps trying, I am not a saint. We can learn from him, he taught us the power of argument and reasoning with others. Action needs to done, ideas are not enough. He was practical! He understood Ubuntu!!! It captures Nelson Mandela, we achieve by caring for others! He taught millions to look for the truth within them. The question is how well we have captured the values of Nelson Mandela within our lives personally. Our work is not yet done. We can change; we can choose a world defined by peace and justice! He makes me want me to be a great man! Let us search for his strength. We will miss him dearly. God bless Madiba, God bless South Africa!!”
Brazillian President Dilma Rousseff: “Most outstanding leader in the 20th century was Nelson Mandela. This great leader had the future of South Africans, Africans and the rest of world. Brazil also celebrates and mourns Nelson Mandela. Our deepest condolences to Mama Graca Machel, Jacob Zuma and the South African nation. Long live the spirit of Nelson Mandela!!
Li Yuanchao Vice President of China: “Deepest condolences from China, we remember his smile quite fondly. Mandela was the pride of African countries. Mandela was a friend and household name in China. We are saddened to have lost Mandela, but we are encouraged by the work that he started and how South Africa is becoming an active player in the continent and the rest of the world. Although the great man has left, his spirit will live FOREVER! Thank You!!”
Namibian President Pohamba: “Mandela was an inspiration during our struggle for Independence in Namibia. Let us stand together as neighbouring countries. Mandela chose forgiveness over retribution. His legacy will never be forgotten, thank you!!!”
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee: “The passing of Madiba is the departure of a very beautiful soul. We will always cherish his love and leadership. He epitomised the fight against inequality. He epitomised the uncommon humanness that inspired mankind. He represented what a true rainbow nation is, thank you very much!!”
Cuban President Raul Castro: “Mandela led South Africa against Apartheid, he is our icon. Integrity and the reduction of poverty was priority for Mandela, we celebrate him. Mandela said: “The Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of South Africans”, in his first visit to Cuba in 1991. Fidel Castro said: “Mandela will go down in the books of history as a hero and not as a man who spent 27 years in prison. Thank You!”
President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma said: “Nelson Mandela! Nelson Mandela! akakho ofana naye…..loosely translated to Nelson Mandela! Nelson Mandela! There is no one like you. Never has South Africa celebrated a life like we are celebrating today. He laid a foundation for a South Africa of our dreams; non sexism, non racialism, inequality and liberation of the masses of South Africans. Nelson Mandela said in 1952: “True, the struggle will be a bitter one, people will be shot at, the government will terrorise those standing against it, but the spirit of the people will not be crushed until freedom is achieved.” This is what Madiba stood for. He never lost his fighting spirit. The struggle for freedom became Madiba’s life. There is no one like Madiba. Today marks the 20th anniversary of him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December 1993. He carefully managed the anger of both the oppressed and oppressors. He laid the foundation for transformation, reconstruction and reconciliation. The Amphitheatre at the Union Buildings where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated will from yesterday (10 December 2013) be called The Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre. Lala ngoxolo Madiba, Qhawe lamaqhawe!!! Rest in Peace our Father and our hero, thank you.
Methodist Church Bishop Ivan Abrahams delivered a very short sermon, sending farewell messages to Nelson Mandela and his family and the mourners attending.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 and sadly passed-on on Thursday 5 December 2013 at around 20.50pm surrounded by his family at his Houghton home in Johannesburg. He had been sickly for about a year now and had recently been in the Heart Medi-Clinic in Pretoria for around 3 months, for a heart and lung related sickness.
His body will be on state at the Union Buildings for public viewing from Wednesday 11 December until Friday 13 December. The family will be leaving for the Eastern Cape on Wednesday 11 December to prepare for his funeral where he will be laid to rest in Qunu on Sunday 15 December at a private ceremony.
LALA NGOXOLO MADIBA! Halala Dalibunga! Halala Sopitsho! Vela bembhensela, Yem-Yem, ugqatso lwako ulufezile Madiba oMude, isithonga sako sivakele, phumula ngoku Tata weSizwe!