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Nelson Mandela's family vow on values 'worth dying for'

Sunday, 8 December 2013 - 9:05am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Nelson Mandela's family spoke for the first time yesterday of their "grave sadness" at his death, saying they and the world had "lost a great man" who acted as a moral guide and an inspiration to millions. Describing him as their "Tata", or father, Mandela's family compared the former South African president to a "Baobab," the "upside-down" bushland tree with a thick trunk that is often used for shelter. Saying they drew comfort from the knowledge "that our pain and sorrow is shared by millions around the world", the Mandela family also vowed to uphold the values that he was "prepared to die for".

"His presence was like a baobab tree that provided a comforting shade that served as protection and security for us," they said, in a statement read by family spokesman General Temba Matanzima, who was accompanied by Mandela's grandson Ndaba. "Tata is gone, the pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that painful 27 years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us.

"As to how the family is coping with the situation … It has not been easy for the last two days and it won't be pleasant for the days to come. But with the support we are receiving from here and beyond, and in due time, all will be well for the family." They said they also took solace in the belief he would be rejoining those who fought alongside him against apartheid. "Madiba is at home with the great friends such as O.R Tambo, Walter Sisulu and indeed many other African patriots and leaders," they said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

Mandela's large family, which includes one widow, one ex-wife, three surviving daughters, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, has become notorious for disputes that have sometimes spilt into the public domain. But yesterday, they pledged to recreate themselves in his image. "As a family, we commit ourselves to uphold and be guided by the values he lived for and was prepared to die for," they said.

Mandela passed away on Thursday night at the age of 95 after several years of poor health caused by a series of lung infections. Yesterday, the government announced a series of events to honour the country's first black president. Visiting heads of state are invited to attend a memorial service on Tuesday at the Soweto football stadium, along with 95,000 South Africans, or a state funeral at his home in the rural village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.

The Prince of Wales, who on Friday signed a book of condolence while visiting the City Chambers in Glasgow, is expected to represent the Queen at the funeral. Plans are also being prepared for the Prince to pay his respects at the coffin of the former South African president at the official "lying in state", which begins on Wednesday. David Cameron and his three surviving predecessors as Prime Minister - Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Sir John Major - are all also understood to be preparing to attend. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is planning to travel to South Africa for Tuesday's memorial service. Last night, Downing Street released details of letters from the Prime Minister to Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, and Graca Machel, Mandela's widow, in which Mr Cameron expresses his condolences.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister paid tribute to Mandela's extraordinary grace and dignity and the example that he set not just to South Africa but to the world on his release from Robben Island." In his letter to President Zuma, Cameron said Mandela "gave the world new hope that the deepest wounds can be healed and that freedom and reconciliation can triumph over division and hate".

Cameron concluded: "He 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." Meanwhile the US will be represented by Barack Obama and former presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton, who will be accompanied by his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea. The White House said yesterday that Obama, who visited South Africa just months ago but was unable to see Mandela because of his ill health, telephoned his wife on Friday to express his condolences. Mandela's family said that they had been "humbled" by the messages of condolence they had received, adding: "Clearly, this once more underlines the simple truth that Madiba was not just a citizen of South Africa and the broader African continent but a global citizen."

The government has announced that Mandela's funeral cortege will travel through the streets of the capital Pretoria on three consecutive days during the former president's lying-in-state. "Government invites mourners to line this route and form a public guard of honour for Tata Madiba when the remains are transported," said Collins Chabane, minister in the presidency. South Africa's national defence force (SANDF) has ordered all soldiers on leave to report back for duty to provide support for Mandela's mourning and funeral activities. Siphiwe Dlamini, a SANDF spokesman, said the defence force would be supporting everything "from dignitaries to parades". "This is a category one funeral, so there will be a lot of activities that involve the defence force," he added.

Chabane said that South Africa's multiple security agencies would be monitoring all the events to ensure they went smoothly, but also appealed to South Africans' spirit of "Ubuntu" (togetherness) to avoid any disruptions, particularly at Tuesday's memorial service, which is unticketed and open to members of the public. He said public screening venues would be set up around the country and appealed to South Africans to be realistic about attending the memorial itself.

"It's an unprecedented national event. We expect a lot of people but it's not the first time the government has managed huge crowds," he said, referring to the football and rugby world cups as well as several meetings of senior world leaders. "No one knows what will come but we will hope for the best. We cannot tell people not to come. We are likely to have huge numbers of people and we need to make sure that they are not stampeded against each other." President Zuma has appealed to all South Africans to turn out in numbers today for a day of "prayer and reflection" about their former leader and his legacy. "We should, while mourning, also sing at the top of our voices, dance and do whatever we want to do, to celebrate the life of this outstanding revolutionary who kept the spirit of freedom alive and led us to a new society," Zuma said.

"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."

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