African National Congress bids farewell to Mandela

Pretoria, Dec 14 : The African National Congress (ANC) bid farewell to former South Africa president Nelson Mandela Saturday ahead of his mortal remains being taken to his home village of Qunu where he will be buried Sunday.

The party held a send-off ceremony for one of its most revolutionary leaders at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria. Mandela's casket arrived at the base in the morning covered with the South African flag.

Members of the South African National Defence Force handed over the casket to the party and it was later covered with the ANC flag marking the official start of the ceremony, the South African Government News (SA News) reported.

About 2,000 ANC members, along with leaders of the ruling alliance, were present at the ceremony. Mandela's family members, including his widow Graca Machel and former wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela, also attended the ceremony.

President Jacob Zuma said the past few days have seen an unprecedented period of mourning and outpouring of love for Mandela.

"He combined two things, which is difficult to do - theory and action," said Zuma.

Zuma recalled the history of struggle, saying that even in the early days Mandela had something powerful about him.

"He had the capacity to persuade," he said, adding that he was also tactical and a powerful legal person.

Zuma hailed him as a man of peace and unity, a negotiator and a revolutionary. He said the anti-apartheid icon was an honest man of integrity and a mentor, and called on the ANC to emulate his example.

Bheki Ntshalintshali, deputy secretary general of the ruling alliance's Congress of South African Trade Unions, talked about how Mandela fought for the workers. He said when workers sing about Mandela "their blood heats up and their eyes become wet".

"Workers held Mandela in their hearts and the former president had supported their interests," Ntshalintshali said.

The South African National Civic Organisation's Ruth Bhengu thanked Winnie Madikizela Mandela for the support she gave to Mandela during the struggle. She thanked Graca for the joy and care she gave to Mandela until the end.

Mandela's family will accompany his body to Qunu Saturday.

--IANS (Posted on 14-12-2013)

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