All the Love in the World; NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013

Article excerpt


It was the news the world had been dreading for so long, but the profound sense of loss still swept across every continent. At 9.30pm UK time on Thursday, December 5, South African President Jacob Zuma appeared on television to announce the death of Nelson Mandela.

South Africa's first black president, a hero to millions and one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, had died peacefully at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95.

"He is now resting, he is now at peace," Zuma told his grieving countrymen. He went on: "Our nation has lost its greatest son, our people have lost a father."

And the world had lost a beacon of freedom, the guiding light who revealed a path to peace and reconciliation.

Hundreds of South Africans poured on to the streets and made their way to Madiba's home, singing the anti-apartheid anthems that had been the soundtrack to his life.

Around the world - from India to France, the UK and Brazil - South African flags were lowered to half mast, beginning 10 days of mourning for the man who endured 27 years in prison in the name of freedom.

There were 10 days of sadness, 10 days of tributes and 10 days of loving thanks for one extraordinary life. This was how the world said goodbye to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - to Tata, meaning father - in his native Xhosa.

And the images of those farewells, from the military formalities to a string of tribal burial rituals, will prove a lasting reminder of his global impact.

The Duchess of Cambridge broke down in tears after she heard the news of his death while she was attending the premiere of a new film about Mandela's life.

Her husband Prince William called him "an extraordinary and inspiring man", Prime Minister David Cameron described him as "a hero of our time", and former American President Bill Clinton "a champion of human dignity".

Politicians in South Africa and Britain paid their own tributes at special sittings of parliament, touching prayer services were held and a sea of flowers flooded the Soweto street where Mandela used to live.

But, perhaps most touching of all, were the candle-lit farewells of the children who grew up in the Rainbow Nation that Mandela created. Their innocent laughter was what Madiba said he had missed the most during his long incarceration on Robben Island, where a candle also burned in the cell that was his home for 18 years.

In 1995 he founded the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, pledging one third of his salary to help orphans of the Aids crisis, as well as other youngsters in need.

On Tuesday, 91 heads of state, from Afghan president Hamid Karzai to Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, joined celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Bono and Charlize Theron at the official memorial service at the FNB football stadium in Johannesburg.

Mandela's family, led by his widow Graca Machel and his ex-wife Winnie, heard a stream of powerful tributes from world leaders, which it later emerged were being "translated" by a fake sign-language interpreter.

And President Barack Obama and David Cameron were later criticised for posing for a selfie snapshot with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

But these distractions failed to overshadow Obama's history-making handshake with the Cuban leader Raul Castro, or his electrifying speech.

America's first black president praised Mandela for healing a nation divided by apartheid, saying: "It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner but jailer as well, to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth."

Mandela's body lay in state in Pretoria for three days before being flown home to Qunu in the Eastern Cape for yesterday's funeral service - a mixture of his Xhosa tribe's rituals and Christian ceremony. …