The spokesman for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, or ANC, says the country owes its prosperity, peace and stability to former president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
Jackson Mthembu said the government will begin preparations for a state funeral for Mr. Mandela.
“We owe the stability that we have in South Africa, the living together of all people of South Africa, despite what apartheid did to them, we all owe that to the sterling work of Madiba,” said Jackson Mthembu. “We are very saddened, but he has played his part. What remains is for us to follow on what he has achieved.”
President Jacob Zuma announced the death of the global icon in a somber address late on Thursday.
Pedestrians pass beneath the Apollo Theater marquee commemorating the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Dec. 5, 2013.
“We want the world to know that he is indeed the founding president of our democracy. He fought for that democracy, he suffered for us to be free, for us to be a democratic country, for us particularly the black people, to be respected, to be on the same level as other people, particularly white people in South Africa.
“He fought colonialism in South Africa, he fought the injustices of apartheid in South Africa, and he indeed paid dearly,” Mthembu said.
He says the government will begin preparations for a state funeral and burial of the late former leader.
“By tomorrow [Friday], all the plans regarding his burial will be put before the nation and before the entire world, when he will be buried and how he will be buried and what will then happen before his burial,” Mthembu said.
He says South Africans are still sad, despite knowing that the former leader was gravely ill. Mthembu says the ANC has been receiving messages of condolences from all over the world and through different routes, including social media platforms.
“People are saying we have lost a very good man, a man of integrity and indeed a man who was a personification of doing good…Indeed we have lost a reconciler,” Mthembu said. “People of South Africa are stunned…there is this thing within South Africans that we would love to still have him in our midst. But he is now no more. We miss him and that is how we feel, all of us as South Africans.”
Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on Robben Island for his work against apartheid. In 1994, following the disintegration of white minority rule, he was elected South Africa's first black president. Mr. Mandela is credited with uniting the country and easing racial tension.
“The legacy of Madiba is the building of a South Africa that is for all people, but a South Africa that is hell-bent to create a better life for all South Africans. Because all the policy positions that we hold as the ANC… are meant to change the lives of those who were on the receiving end of apartheid rule to have a better life,” Mthembu said.
“This is the roadmap that Madiba started for all of us to as the founding president, and we will continue with that roadmap and that legacy of Madiba.”
People listen to a radio as South African President Jacob Zuma announces the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Houghton, Dec. 5, 2013.
Nelson Mandela was leader of the ruling ANC party. Mthembu says Madiba was the founding president of South Africa’s democracy and unity despite the country’s recent apartheid history. He outlined the party’s message to South Africans and the rest of the world following the death of the former leader.
“We have lost a wonderful president, a wonderful person, a wonderful human being, a person whose life needs to be emulated, and this is what we will try and do at the ANC - through our policies and through everything that we do,” said Mthembu.