News World South Africa marks Nelson Mandela’s death

South Africa marks Nelson Mandela’s death

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South Africans have prayed, sung and fallen silent to mark the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death, honouring the Nobel laureate’s role in vanquishing racist white rule.

A dawn interfaith service began a sombre day of remembrance on Friday, with South Africa’s living liberation heroes gathering at the Freedom Park amphitheatre in Pretoria.

Wreaths were laid at the base of a five-metre statue of a smiling Madiba, the clan name by which South Africans affectionately call a man who is both father of the nation and their favourite son.

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“The body gave in but Madiba’s spirit never, never changed, it was always the same until the end,” Mandela’s widow Graca Machel said before laying a huge ring of white flowers and pale pink roses at the base of the statue.

She then joined hands with members of Mandela’s family in prayer.

She said she was “numb” when her husband died, but she now remembers him as “tall and proud”.

US President Barack Obama also joined South Africans in paying homage to Mandela.

“As we pause today to remember the legacy of Madiba, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on how Mandela’s life has inspired our own,” Obama said in a statement.

“While Mandela left behind a world more just and free, there is much more work to be done.”

During the service, bells tolled for three minutes and seven seconds – followed by three minutes of silence – a six-minute and seven-second dedication to Mandela’s 67 years of public service.

Mandela’s old comrades, rights lawyer George Bizos and Ahmed Kathrada, who was imprisoned with him on Robben Island, also paid tribute.

“I miss him not only as a political leader, I miss him as an elder brother,” said Kathrada, his voice shaking.

“When Madiba died, I asked who should I turn to. I am still looking to somebody.”

Mandela passed away last year at the age of 95, after a long period of illness.

He was buried on December 15 at Qunu, his ancestral rural village in the Eastern Cape region.

A long list of other events dedicated to Mandela were set to take place into the weekend and beyond, including a friendly cricket match, dubbed the Mandela Legacy Cup, between South Africa’s national rugby and cricket teams.

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