Dignitaries, veterans, politicians, family members and people around the country gathered on Friday to commemorate the first anniversary of former president Nelson Mandela’s death.
As part of the festivities, several dignitaries and members of the Mandela family laid wreaths at his statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Led by his grandson Mandla, the family held hands and formed a circle in front of the statue after placing the wreaths. Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka Mandela was among them.
Struggle veterans, including Ahmed Kathrada, George Bizos, and Sophie de Bruyn, placed their wreaths after the family, and were followed by Cabinet ministers and children from the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Mandela’s widow Graca Machel said he was now happy and smiling, wherever he was.
“I know that he is smiling and happy among the family he chose to build, the family he chose to build with [Walter] Sisulu, [OR] Tambo, [Lilian] Ngoyi and so on,” she said, adding that he had built a family of strong men and women.
“On the day of his passing I was not able to think. I was numb…. But looking back I can imagine him tall and proud, walking, and all of them rising to welcome him…. I know Madiba is in good hands.”
However, veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos said Mandela would have been disappointed by the ongoing corruption in the country.
“I am happy that its exposure is growing by the day,” he said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters echoed his sentiments.
“The current leadership is trapped in dishonesty and does everything to service their individual interests,” spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.
“When faced with Nkandla, Marikana, Guptagate, and the many challenges of the current leadership, we miss Mandela the most, for we know under his watch none of these unfortunate and dishonourable events would have found the light of day,” he said.
The EFF would draw inspiration from Mandela to “pursue the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime”.
President Jacob Zuma said on Friday that the commemoration was “a day of reflection on the road travelled since the dawn of freedom in 1994, and the contribution of president Mandela and the ANC collective to the building of a new democratic and free South Africa”.
“President Mandela’s vision that inspired us on the road to building a cohesive, united non-racial South Africa, is still very much alive today and continues to shape our vision for our country,” Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery at a business forum meeting in China.
A year after his death, Mandela’s personal assistant Zelda la Grange said life was difficult without him.
“You have been gone for almost a year now. Your passing has still not sunk in and the reality is difficult to accept,” she wrote in a letter published on The Times’ newspaper’s website.
She said people could learn from Mandela’s example, particularly from his morals and the importance he placed on respect.
Meanwhile, the SA Communist Party said on Friday that Mandela would be remembered as the committed leader of the African National Congress.
“Comrade Mandela was dedicated to our ANC-headed alliance, believing that this revolutionary movement represented the best organised formation to lead and complete the liberation of our people,” spokesman Alex Mashilo said in a statement.
“He in fact declared with sense of humour, that the first thing he will ask after death when he arrives in heaven is whether there is an ANC branch, and that if there is none he will go ahead and establish it.”
On Friday, Jacaranda News reported that a commemoration event was also being held at the Nelson Mandela Museum in the former president’s home town in Qunu, Eastern Cape.
Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela, Umkhonto we Sizwe members and other politicians were present, and afterwards a boxing tournament would be held in honour of Mandela, who was an amateur boxer in his youth.
Mandela’s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is expected to attend the proceedings in Qunu.
The SA National Defence Force, in partnership with the Robben Island Museum, was expected to unveil an official replica of Mandela’s cell on Friday.
Mandela died aged 95 on December 5 last year. SAPA