For the last time on Friday, members of the public will be able to view the body of the first democratically elected president of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. He lies in state in the area that has recently been named the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Mandla Mandela has often been called the “apple of his grandfather’s eye” and he keeps watch over the statesman’s body while the public files past to pay their respects.
On Friday morning, the mood was noticeably different as South Africans came to grips with the reality that their favourite old man is really gone. The Nelson Mandela cortege drove past historical sites in the city of Pretoria before he was laid at the Union Buildings. The media has shared pictures of people standing anxiously in long queues, hoping to make it past the casket of Madiba before the cut-off set by the authorities. These queues have been compared to those of voters in 1994.
The sentiments on social networks on Friday morning speak of a nation waiting in line to see its departed leader and supporting each other through this loss. Twitter user @Clive1602 tweeted: “Off to the Union Buildings to pay my last respects to David Motsamai aka Nelson Rolihlahla #Mandela!” Another Twitter subscriber @NadiaNeophytou texted: “It’s the 8th day of mourning, and the last day #Mandela’s body will be lying in state at the Union Buildings. Truly sinking in…” The public has displayed its solidarity with the Mandela family and this tweet by @bubbles_27774 is testament to that: “Umandla must b vry tires n gng thru all sorts of emotions,evryday standing by His late grand father.. #Madiba.”
The past week of mourning has been made even more difficult to bear for the Mandela family as well as the local and international public by the controversy which has clouded the memorial events staged by the South African government after the elderly Mandela passed away.
First, it was the heckling of President Jacob Zuma at the memorial service held at FNB Stadium in front of scores of world leaders and millions of people watching on television around the world. Then, it emerged that the sign language interpreter who stood within reach of international heads of state is schizophrenic and has violent outbursts. Not only that; Thamsanqa Jantjie’s sign language abilities have come into question and spurned an investigation into how such an embarrassing atrocity could have been allowed to happen. When the American government caught wind of these latest developments, it expressed its concern that Jantjie managed to slip through security checks, apparently without difficulty, at an event of this nature where security measures were expected to be impenetrable.
A picture of the body of Nelson Mandela shocked and angered South Africans when it found its way into social networks. The public was outraged and branded the image showing what appears to be Mandela lying in his coffin as a sign of “blatant disrespect” for the memory of the man who dedicated his life to the freedom of black people and the equality of all races in South African and the world. The South African government has dismissed the image as a hoax.
Former President Nelson Mandela’s body will be flown to Qunu for his burial at the family homestead on Sunday.