New Zealanders mourn Mandela's death

Last updated 14:33 06/12/2013

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown has offered her condolences on the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela - a "shining light in the global peace community".

"His sacrifice of 26 years in prison and his willingness to lead reconciliation with his imprisoners remains truly inspirational," she said.

She had offered her condolences to South African High Commissioner Zodwa Lallie.

Wellington Town Hall will fly the South African flag at half-mast.

South Africa's High Commissioner in New Zealand Zodwa Lallie said news of Mandela's death came like a hit in the solar plexus.

But there was also joy at a long life lived so well despite horrific obstacles, Zodwa Lallie said.

She had met Mandela once in 1993, just before he was elected as South Africa's first black President and came to the newspaper office she worked in.

''He was extraordinary. I cannot explain to you the aura he had.''

It would be hard to think of a South African, especially a black one, that had a memory of not having Mandela.

They include his 27 years in jail, during which time people outside could be arrested for speaking his name. Then came his release and, as leader of the ANC, his rise to become South Africa's first black President.

While he did not solely get apartheid banished he played a ''leading role'' in it.When she got word of the death, which has been long expected, it was ''like someone hit you in the solar plexus'', she said.

''For a while I was numb. The reality is sinking in.''

The High Commission, on the seventh floor at 1 Willis St, would have a condolence book people could sign from Monday. An event was planned for Wellington, though there were not yet any details.

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Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he will attend Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa.

He expressed his sadness at the news of Mandela's death, which was announced about 10.30am today (NZT).

"Nelson Mandela was an inspirational leader, and a remarkable man.

"On behalf of the New Zealand people and the Government, I would like to express my sincere condolences to both his family and all South Africans," he said.

"For years he symbolised South Africa's hope for a future free from apartheid.

"Mr Mandela was a force for change, not only in South Africa, but around the world.

"In his time as president he helped South Africa come to terms with its past, and, through reconciliation, built the foundations for a stronger nation," Mr Key said.

A delegation headed by the prime minister will represent New Zealand at the funeral.

Related read: Kiwis take to Twitter to mourn death

Opposition leader David Cunliffe said the death of Mandela left "an enormous void".

"Nelson Mandela was not just a champion for a generation of South Africans, but was an internationally renowned anti-apartheid campaigner.

"His name became synonymous with peace and democracy," Mr Cunliffe said.

"Nelson Mandela has been one of my lifelong heroes. My first ever political demonstration was an anti-apartheid march to free Nelson Mandela.

"His indomitable spirit was an inspiration to millions. He displayed remarkable dignity in rising above the wrongs of apartheid to unite his people and his nation."

Mr Cunliffe said the world was a "poorer place" for Mr Mandela's death and "he will never be forgotten".

"Our condolences go to his family and to the many who will be mourning with them today."

Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae said Mr Mandela's death marked the passing of a "global legend".

Sir Jerry said he was "a man and a leader whose example moved humanity and the world".

"For the people of South Africa, in particular, it is a time of great sadness.  They mourn the loss of Madiba, often described as their father of the nation.

"However, in every country the world over, many will sense that a bright light has been extinguished; that we have lost a statesman who showed that patience, humility and forgiveness could work miracles and could overcome the forces of dogma, inertia and violence."

He said New Zealand was also "deeply mourning" Mandela's death, and called him a "man of great courage, vision and mana" who guided South Africa from the "evil of apartheid to a racially inclusive democracy".  

"His leadership showed oppressed peoples worldwide that moral force can end tyranny.  His leadership brought hope for a better future to millions."

Sir Jerry said that while Mandela was an iconic symbol of hope, peace and justice worldwide, he was also a family man; "whose wife, children and wider family grieve for the loss of the private man that only they knew".

"As Governor-General of New Zealand, on behalf of all New Zealanders, my wife Janine and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa at this very sad time."

NZ First leader Winston Peters has also joined Parliament's leaders to express his sadness. 

He said Mr Mandela's legacy would have a lasting effect on South Africa. "Nelson Mandela was a beacon to all those in South Africa who looked to heal the divisions of the past and to unite all South Africans heading forward.

"And who in New Zealand could forget the sight of the newly elected Nelson Mandela at the 1995 Rugby World Cup."

Mr Peters said his party extended its sympathies to the Mandela friends and family, "and to the South African nation".

 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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