Jacob Zuma, the South African president has called on South Africans to cease mourning but celebrate the fact that they are Mandela’s compatriots having lived through his time. The South African president was addressing the crowd of foreign dignitaries and South Africans who gathered at the FNB stadium in Soweto. Incidentally that was where the deceased had his last public outing in 2010, as a special spectator at the world cup tournament hosted by the country.
The event was more than a football fiesta for South Africa, it was a grand honor for the man who is the symbol of the struggle for social justice in the former apartheid country.
“Mandela laid a firm foundation for the South Africa of our dreams: united, non-racist and non-sexist. He was a courageous leader, a fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state to stand in the way of the liberation of his people” Zuma says.
He added that Mandela predicted many decades ago that the government would persecute the movement’s leaders, but the spirit of the people cannot be crushed until full victory is won. “This struggle became his life. He was the first commander in chief of the ANC’s armed wing in the 1960s, and the state made him a criminal because of what he believed, but he never lost his fighting spirit, Zuma says.
According to the South African president, between 1990 and 1994 the nation stared into the heart of darkness and the possibility of civil war, but Mandela restored a sense of calm and purpose by taking them back on the road to freedom.
Zuma said “Madiba was one of a kind. Today would have been the 20th anniversary of his being awarded the Nobel peace prize”.
He never wanted to be viewed as a messiah or a saint. All his achievements were derived from working with the ANC collectively. “Today Madiba is no more. He leaves behind a nation that loves him dearly and a continent proud of him, an entrenched legacy of freedom, human rights and democracy. In his honour we commit ourselves to continue to build a nation made up of these values” Zuma said.
He told the crowd that Mandela will tomorrow be accompanied to Pretoria, where his body will lie in state for three days. The union buildings amphitheatre, where he was inaugurated in 1994, and where his body will lie in state, will from today be called the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre.