South Africans on Friday began marking one year since the death of Nelson Mandela with services, blasting of vuvuzelas and a cricket match to honour his enormous legacy as an anti-apartheid icon and global beacon of hope.
An interfaith service kicked off the day’s events in Pretoria, at the Freedom Park building dedicated to the country’s liberation heroes.
“Twenty years of democracy has been possible because of Mandela,” tribal chief Ron Martin said as the sun rose over the Pretoria hills and the smell of herbs burning in spiralled antelope horns wafted over the ceremony.
Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the base of a five-metre statue of a smiling Madiba, the clan name by with South Africans affectionally call their nation’s favourite son.
“The body gave in but Madiba’s spirit never, never changed, it was always the same until the end,” Mandela’s widow Graca Machel said before laying a huge wreath of white flowers with pale pink roses at the base of the statue.
“Madiba is, in spirit, the same even today,” said Machel. “I know Madiba is smiling, Madiba is happy because he is amongst the family he chose to build.”
Later in the day, bells, hooters, vuvuzelas and sirens will chime, honk, blow and wail for three minutes and seven seconds — followed by three minutes of silence: a six-minute and seven-second dedication to Mandela’s 67 years of public service.
A long list of other events were set to take place into the weekend and beyond dedicated to Mandela, including motorcycle rides and performances.
South Africans were also finding their own ways of remembering the former president who led their country out of the dark days of apartheid after enduring 27 years in prison.
For example, tattoo studios in the country have reported an ever-growing demand for Mandela-inspired ink.
Fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu called on South Africans to emulate Mandela’s example in a statement to mark the anniversary.
“Our obligation to Madiba is to continue to build the society he envisaged, to follow his example,” Tutu said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.
“A society founded on human rights, in which all can share in the rich bounty God bestowed on our country. In which all can live in dignity, together. A society of better tomorrows for all.”
– Motorbikes for Mandela –
The iconic leader passed away at the age of 95 last year after a long illness.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the three-minute moment of silence at 0800 GMT, followed by a friendly cricket match, dubbed the Mandela Legacy Cup, between South Africa’s national rugby and cricket teams at 1300 GMT.
At the weekend, artists and performers will hold centre stage at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has launched an exhibition in honour of the life and work of its namesake.
Motorcyclists across the country have also been called on to dedicate their traditional Sunday morning rides to the anti-apartheid hero.
A five-kilometre (three-mile) Nelson Mandela Remembrance Walk will be held in Pretoria on December 13, passing some of the city’s historic landmarks, including the Union Buildings, South Africa’s seat of government.
The next day, the city’s inaugural marathon will dedicate its last mile to Madiba.
Mandela’s death was met with a worldwide outpouring of grief.
He had set South Africa on a course towards reconciliation after he emerged unbowed from nearly three decades in prison in 1990 and became the country’s first president to be elected by universal suffrage in 1994.
His one-time jailer FW de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993, called on South Africans to honour his legacy.
“Although Nelson Mandela is no longer physically with us his legacy remains to guide us,” he said in a statement marking the anniversary.