Struggle icon Madiba remembered

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Today marks five years to the day South African struggle icon and the country’s first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela passed away.

Madiba, as he was affectionately referred to, passed away on 5 December 2013 at 1 Military Hospital after a long illness. He was 95. Government this year dedicated 2018 to celebrating Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, who would have both turned 100 years old. 

His death saw government initiate a series of commemorative events. These ranged from Mandela’s body lying in state at the amphitheatre at the Union Buildings daily from 11 December to 13 December, to the unveiling of his life-sized statue at the seat of government.

The events were aimed at celebrating the icon’s illustrious political career that began in 1944 when he joined liberation struggle movement, the African National Congress (ANC). In 1962, Mandela and several other ANC leaders were sentenced to life sentences for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government. He had served 27 years of the sentence at the Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons when he was released in 1990.

In 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections, in which he was elected the country’s first black and democratically elected president.

Over 50 Heads of State, Heads of Government, former Presidents, former heads of government, eminent persons from across the world attended the memorial service and funeral. The memorial service was held at the FNB stadium in Soweto. Madiba was buried in his birthplace of Qunu, Eastern Cape five days later.

During these five days, his body lay in state. The Mandela family and VVIPs viewed the body on the first day, while the public had access for the following two days.

With event venues packed to the rafters, provincial and local authorities arranged transport for mourners from various parts of the country to FNB Stadium and the overflow venues at Ellis Park Stadium, Orlando Stadium and Dobsonville Stadium.

About 90 public viewing areas were activated from 10 December until 16 December, Reconciliation Day.

On the Day of Reconciliation, government unveiled a statue of President Mandela at the Union Buildings and observed the 100th anniversary of the Union Buildings as the seat of government.

Throughout this period, the public expressed their emotions and reflections in books of condolence that were posted at various government offices around the country and diplomatic missions abroad.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation will on Thursday host an event as part of the "remembrance period" to mark five years since Madiba’s passing. The event will look at how histories have shaped the imagination of the future. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sebabatso Manoeli and Neo Muyanga will be the guest speakers. –