Manto: Mandela, Mbeki's final goodbye

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pretoria - Former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki's messages of condolences to former Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's family were read out at her special official funeral service in Pretoria today.

Tshabalala-Msimang's daughter, Zukisa, took the task of reading the messages at the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

"Graca and I, our family and staff send you our heartfelt condolences over the passing of Manto. We can never prepare ourselves for the inevitable," read Mandela's message, which was addressed to Tshabalala-Msimang's husband Mendi.

Mandela, who appointed Tshabalala-Msimang as Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister in 1996, said it was a particularly emotional time of the year to lose a family member.

"We therefore realise that this time is a particularly sad one for your family. We wish you strength during this time of bereavement."

Mbeki, in his message, said that since 1961 he had had the privilege of walking the road of democracy with Tshabalala-Msimang. He said she had used her skill and knowledge to help the people of South Africa during the struggle, adding that they were privileged to have Manto in their lives.

"As we pay tribute to comrade Manto we must take time to survey the road we have to still travel without her by our side. We still have a challenging road ahead of us. Though she has departed the world of the living, we will have to ensure the example she set continues to inspire us," said Mbeki.

A message to the family from Nambian President Hifikepunye Pohamba was also read out.

The former minister's coffin was earlier carried into the flower-laden church by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) draped in the national flag.

Her body was expected to be cremated in Benoni later in the day.