The mood in South Africa has turned solemn after Tuesday’s memorial for the late president and anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela. Mandela will lie in state through Friday in an open coffin in the capital of Pretoria. His body is on view in the exact spot where he was sworn in as the country’s first black and democratically elected president 19 years ago. South African police say the line of people waiting to pay their respects stretched nearly four miles long, reminding many of the lines on election day in 1994. Earlier Wednesday, a motorcade transported Mandela’s coffin from a military hospital to be displayed, passing the courthouse where he was sentenced to life in prison.
in common with so many people close to him, as well as those who were far off, whether South Africans or internationally, profound sadness. Of course, he was 95 and ill for some time, so I can’t say it came as a surprise. In fact, we were prepared for this. But whenever death strikes, it seems to come like a thief in the night, and you’re shocked, and you’re torn up.
But actually, given the life he had led and the tremendous example of that extraordinary life of struggle, of being involved in a collective leadership all his life, of facing the death penalty, of all those years in prison, and then surmounting that and coming to a reconciliation with his enemies in terms of being able to acquire political power and set the country on the course of democracy, to have been close to him throughout all that obviously leaves a deep, deep pain and an extraordinary gap in one’s life.
But like a father—and I’m not using that term in a superficial way—when we say he was a father to us all, it was like the passing of one’s father, because this was a leader in the best sense of the world, a leader who led by example and led from the front, and could also lead from behind in terms of the way a shepherd makes sure the sheep a
— source democracynow.org