ASKED how he wished to be remembered, Nelson Mandela had
said that for him to choose would be "egotistical. . . I'd leave
that entirely to South Africans. I would just like a simple stone
on which is written 'Mandela.'"
Since his death on Thursday
of last week, South Africans have celebrated the life of "Tata
Madiba" in spectacular style. Tributes from around the world have
drawn parallels with the lives of great figures of faith: Joseph,
Gideon, Elijah, and even Jesus himself.
The news of Mr Mandela's
death, at the age of 95, was announced by the President of South
Africa, Jacob Zuma, on Thursday night: "He passed on peacefully in
the company of his family. . . He is now resting. He is now at
peace." Mr Mandela had been treated at home for a lung infection
after spending three months in hospital.
A week of mourning and
Welcoming more than 100
heads of state and government to the FNB stadium in Johannesburg on
Tuesday, the deputy president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa,
apologised for the torrential rain, before explaining: "In our
African tradition, when it rains when you are buried, it means that
your gods are welcoming you. And the gates of heaven are most
probably open as well."
Prayers were said by faith
leaders representing the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian
The Chief Rabbi of South
Africa, Warren Goldstein, drew parallels between the life of Joseph
and that of Mr Mandela, who "rose up from jail to become President
of a mighty nation; he too transcended his personal pain and
years of suffering to forgive and to embrace his brothers and
sisters who had inflicted so much pain on him and so many millions
The sermon was delivered by
Bishop Ivan Abrahams, the first South African General Secretary of
the World Methodist Council. He spoke of Elijah's passing his
mantle on to Elisha: "Mandela's mantle has fallen and is within
reach of everyone in this generation. . . Today, God urges us to
pick up the mantle; for, when we do so, we will honour the spirit
of Mandela. When we do so, we will not just be a passive observer
to inequality and injustice."
During the ceremony, Mr
Ramaphosa urged the unruly crowd to show "discipline", after
pictures of President Zuma on screens prompted loud boos and jeers.
There was silence during Mr Zuma's speech, during which he
reiterated several times: "There is no one like Madiba: he was one
of a kind."
It took a speech by the
President of the United States, Barack Obama, to animate the crowd,
which was much depleted by the time the ceremony concluded. "It
took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the
jailer as well," he said. "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, generosity, and truth. He changed laws, but also
He warned: "There are too
many of us who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial
reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest re-forms that
would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are
too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for
freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people." He
concluded: "He makes me want to be better."
The ceremony was closed by
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first black South African Archbishop
of Cape Town, who had stern words for the crowd, refusing to bless
them until he could "hear a pin drop".
Writing in theObserveron Sunday, Archbishop Tutu said: "Like a
most precious diamond honed deep beneath the surface of the earth,
the Madiba who emerged from prison was virtually flawless. Instead
of calling for his pound of flesh, he proclaimed the message of
forgiveness and reconciliation, inspiring others by his example to
extraordinary acts of nobility of spirit." His "chief weakness" had
been "his steadfast loyalty to his organisation and to his
colleagues. He retained in his own cabinet underperforming, frankly
incompetent ministers who should have been dismissed." The present
Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, prayed: "Go
forth, revolutionary and loving soul, on your journey out of this
world, in the name of God, who created you, suffered with you, and
At St Martin-in-the Fields in London, the Archbishop of
Canterbury delivered a sermon in which he described how Mr Mandela
had "faced the insult of being labelled a terrorist for fighting
for his own people, the absurdity of trial for treason against an
utterly wicked regime . . ."
Another former Archbishop of Cape Town, the Rt Revd Njongonkula
Ndungane, also a prisoner on Robben Island, told the BBC
Sunday programme, of the Church's "critical solidarity"
with the South African government, and warned that "the Mandela
magic will not put food on people's tables. [The govern-ment] have
to got to deliver what has been promised to the people."
The Revd Dirkie Van Der Spui of the Dutch Reformed Church in
South Africa told the programme that the Church was "ashamed" of
its part in providing theological justification for apartheid:
"Thank God for opening our eyes, and thank you for people like
Mandela who helped us to see a new future for our country."
Archbishop burgled. The home of Archbishop
Desmond Tutu was burgled on Tuesday while he was at the memorial,
it was reported on Wednesday. His aide, Roger Friedman, confirmed
that the burglary had taken place: "We are not able to tell exactly
what was stolen. The Archbishop and his wife were not at home. The
house was not pillaged."
First the feet, and then the great man in
Paul Brannenrecalls his meeting with Nelson
IN THE 1980s, I landed a full-time job working for the
Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) at its headquarters in Mandela
Street, in Camden, north London.
Here I was employed as the convener of
Southern Africa - The Imprisoned Society (SATIS), and in this
position I was responsible for organising the campaign aimed at
gaining the release of the political prisoners in South Africa,
including those on death row, and those on Robben Island, who
included Nelson Mandela.
As a consequence, not long after his release
in 1990 after 27 years in prison, when he arrived in London a free
man, I had the privilege of accompanying the executive director of
the AAM, Mike Terry, to the Churchill Hotel, in central London, to
meet Mandela and his delegation.
Arriving at the hotel suite, we were told that
Madiba was resting after the flight, and might or might not join
us; so on went the meeting without him, discussing with his staff
and Winnie Mandela the itinerary for the next few
Throughout the meeting, Mike and I were very
conscious that it was Mandela's feet we could see at the end of the
bed through the open door to our right. Occasionally throughout
the next 45 minutes they crossed and uncrossed themselves, but,
alas, they never moved from the horizontal to the perpendicular.
The meeting concluded, and we returned to the AAM
The staff all immediately clustered around
us. "Well, what was he like?" Mike and I looked at each other,
slightly embarrassed, and replied: "Er, well, we are not sure - we
only saw his feet."
The next day, at a reception
hosted by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth,
Shridath Ramphal, we got to meet the great man face to face. I
remember his height, his huge but soft hands, and that amazing
"And what do you do?" he asked.
"I work for the Anti-Apartheid Movement," I
"Ah, we have much to thank you for; but there
is still much work to do, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise,"
came the response.
Paul Brannen is Head of England - North and
Central, at Christian Aid.