Without Mandela

Manmohan Singh says Mandela’s passing as much India’s loss as South Africa’s.

Written by New York Times | Johannesburg | Published: December 7, 2013 2:11 am

When Cliff Rosen awoke on Friday to the news that Nelson Mandela had died,he went out to the field of sunflowers growing in his garden and cut down the tallest one.

“A special flower for a special man,” Rosen,a 40-year-old urban farmer,said as he wired the towering,six-foot stalk to the fence surrounding the spontaneous memorial that has sprung up just outside the home where Mandela died Thursday night.

“I chose this flower because he towered over us all,” Rosen said. “Today it feels like the world got a little bit smaller.”

The man who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president,becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance,died at 8.50 pm local time. He was 95.

The South African president,Jacob G Zuma,announced Mandela’s death. He will be buried according to his wishes in the village of Qunu,where he grew up.

In the government’s first announcement of a schedule for ceremonies likely to draw vast numbers of world dignitaries and less exalted mourners,Zuma said on Friday that the former president’s body would lie in state from December 11 to 13 after a memorial at the World Cup football stadium in Soweto on December 10,before a state funeral in Qunu on December 15.

At a service in Cape Town,Archbishop Desmond M Tutu,himself a towering figure in the struggle against apartheid that defined much of Mandela’s life,said early on Friday: “Let us give him the gift of a South Africa united,one.”

As flags flew at half-staff across the nation,a sense of loss,blended with memories of inspiration,spread from US President Barack Obama in Washington to members of the British royal family and on to those who saw Mandela as an exemplar of a broader struggle.

“A giant among men has passed away,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India said. “This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s.”

As public figures competed for superlatives to describe Mandela,Prime Minister David Cameron declared in London: “A great light has gone out in the world.” Pope Francis praised “the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa”.

President Vladimir V Putin of Russia said Mandela was “committed to the end of his days to the ideals of humanism and justice”. French authorities bathed the Eiffel Tower in Paris in green,red,yellow and blue lights — the colours of the South African flag.

The tone of the tributes reflected seemingly universal sentiments crossing racial,national,religious and political lines. In the US,Republicans and Democrats alike rushed to embrace his legacy. In China,the government hailed him as a liberator from imperialism,even as dissidents embraced him as a symbol of resistance against repression.

In South Africa,people of all races gathered at Mandela’s home,laying wreaths,singing freedom songs,whispering prayers and performing the shuffling toyi-toyi dance in his honour. People came together in a way that seems increasingly rare in a nation where the everyday worries of a struggling economy,incessant allegations of government corruption and a sinking sense that a nation born two decades ago into such promise is slipping into despair.

“It is one of those days when everyone is united again,” said Reginald Hoskins,who brought his two young children to Mandela’s house on Friday morning. “That is what Nelson Mandela stood for,and we need to honour that in our lives every day.”

Hellen Zille,the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance,said South Africans owed their sense of belonging to a single family to Mandela. “That is his legacy. It is why there is an unparalleled outpouring of national grief at his passing.”

Britons often claim a particular bond among the many Europeans who supported South Africa’s struggle against apartheid,leading efforts to impose an international boycott on South African sports figures and gathering frequently to protest outside the country’s high commission,or embassy,in Trafalgar Square in London. A line formed outside the building on Friday as scores of people lined up to sign a condolence book.

Prince William,the second in line to the British throne,spoke to reporters after attending the premiere of a new movie about Mandela on Thursday,calling him “an extraordinary and inspiring man”.

South African cricketer A B de Villiers echoed Archbishop Tutu’s hope for a future free of renewed racial and social division. “Let us now,more than ever,stick together as a nation,” de Villiers said. “We owe him that much.”

Mandela was closely linked with sports,but his broader legacy,for some sports figures,related to his quest for reconciliation and freedom.

“He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale,” boxing legend Muhammad Ali said in a statement. “His was a spirit born free,destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens. He is now forever free.”

Sprinter Usain Bolt called Mandela “one of the greatest human beings ever”.

In the Middle East,Israeli and Palestinian leaders offered tributes to a man who had been a staunch supporter of and role model for the Palestine Liberation Organization but also recognized what he called “the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism”.

Marwan Barghouti,a Palestinian leader imprisoned since 2002,said in a statement: “From within my prison cell,I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mandela “a paragon of our time” and a “moral leader of the first order”,while President Shimon Peres said his “legacy will remain etched on the pages of history and in the hearts of all those people whose lives he touched”.

LYDIA POLGREEN & ALAN COWELL

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