UK & World News

  • 7 December 2013, 18:12

Mandela Family: 'We Have Lost A Great Man'

The family of Nelson Mandela has paid tribute to the late South African leader, saying it has "lost a great man, a son of the soil".

In their first statement since Mr Mandela's death, the family spoke about their grief in the wake of the 95 year old's death.

Lieutenant General Temba Templeton Matanzima, a spokesman for the Mandela family, read the statement to journalists in Johannesburg.

The statement said: "The pillar of the royal Mandela family is no more with us physically, but his spirit is still with us.

"We have lost a great man, a son of the soil whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst - a caring family leader who made time for all and on that score we will miss him dearly."

South Africans have been urged to dance and "sing at the top of our voices" as part of a National Day of Prayer and Reflection on Sunday in honour of Mr Mandela.

President Jacob Zuma says people should gather at stadiums, halls, churches, temples and synagogues across the country to remember Mr Mandela's life.

In a statement Mr Zuma said: "We should, while mourning, also sing at the top of our voices, dance and do whatever we want to do."

"As South Africans we sing when we are happy and we also sing when we are sad to make ourselves feel better.

"Let us celebrate Madiba in this way, which we know best. Let us sing for Madiba."

Mr Zuma will attend a service at the Bryanston Methodist Church to mark the National Day of Prayer and Reflection on Sunday.

The day comes ahead of a lengthy schedule of ceremonies to be held during a week of national mourning for Mr Mandela.

The schedule includes a memorial service on Tuesday at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium, where Mr Mandela made his last public appearance in 2010.

Mr Mandela's body will then lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday.

The South African government has also announced that Mr Mandela's coffin will be taken in a cortege through the streets of Pretoria each morning, giving millions of South Africans a chance to say a final farewell.

Mr Mandela will then be buried in his childhood village of Qunu on December 15 after a state funeral.

The funeral is expected to draw many world leaders and dignitaries. US President Barack Obama has already said he will be attending.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron has written to Mr Zuma and to Mr Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, to express his condolences at the passing of the former leader.

In the letter Mr Cameron wrote: "He (Mr Mandela) will forever have a distinguished place in history.

"It falls to all of us and future generations to learn from him and try to realise his extraordinary legacy." 

Announcing details of the events to remember Mr Mandela, South Africa's Minister Collins Chabane said: "We have witnessed extraordinary scenes of support and celebration of the life of Madiba at various centres around South Africa and the world."

"We have witnessed overwhelming responses at our missions abroad and domestically. We greatly appreciate these demonstrations of humanity and solidarity."

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