Manawatu mourns the death of Nelson Mandela
'They were all chanting 'Nelson, Nelson, Nelson'...'CHRIS HYDE
Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela has died, aged 95.
The man who spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule and became South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994, was taken to the hospital on June 8 to be treated for what the government described as a recurring lung infection.
He had returned home on September 1 in a critical condition after being in a Pretoria hospital for almost three months - the fourth time he had been admitted to hospital since December. He had battled a series of lung infections and respiratory illnesses in the past few years.
South African's across the world are now beginning the process of mourning for, and remembering of, their symbolic grandfather.
Among them are a number of expats now living in Palmerston North who have shared their stories of Mandela with the Manawatu Standard.
Massey University resource & environmental planning professor Bruce Glavovic is flying to South Africa tomorrow, and remembers February 11, 1990, the day Mandela changed the world, as if it were yesterday.
''The day he was released, I remember people rushing to the Square in Cape Town. It was like a cork had been taken out of a champagne bottle and the human spirit released.''
Over the next two years, Glavovic did what he still considers the defining work of his career, as project manager of a team that designed and negotiated new racially-inclusive policies for the development of South Africa's coastline.
These policies eventually became law.
It was all done on the coat-tails of what Mandela had made possible, he said.
''It's easy to be rose-tinted about it now but there were forces at work at that time that were still hell bent on trying to thwart the transition to democracy under Mandela.
''It was just an incredible opportunity to be a part of the transition.''
Glavovic moved to New Zealand with his family in 2002 and is returning to South Africa briefly to examine what the effect of his policies have been, nearly 20 years on.
The thought of going back to a South Africa without Mandela is strange to him.
''For all South Africans, he was present in a tangible way.
''Even though I never met him, you always felt he was accessible.
''For so many South Africans he is such an inspiration and the mourning for him will be immense."
South African-born former Manawatu Turbos assistant coach Wesley Clarke fondly remembers Mandela's wearing of a Springbok jersey to the final of the Rugby World Cup in 1995.
''The crowd at Ellis Park were mostly white and they were all chanting 'Nelson, Nelson, Nelson', which was a big change from the election a year before.
''The man showed forgiveness. It would have been easy for him to be bitter and twisted with what he went through, but he wasn't.
''He was a great man.''
MEMORIAL SERVICE PLANNED IN PALMERSTON NORTH
A public memorial service for Mandela is being organised in Palmerston North.
One of the organisers, All Saints' priest John Hornblow, said the event was likely to coincide with the date of Mandela's funeral.
Pre-planning had taken place and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on Broadway Ave was almost certain to be the location, Hornblow said.
The service would be inter-faith and open to everyone in Manawatu, he said.
"We plan to give the man the send off he deserves."
BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER, VISITING FEILDING, PAYS TRIBUTE
British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell, who is visiting Feilding today, said she met Mandela at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh in 1997.
"When he walked into the room everyone felt his presence. It was a moment when the room changed."
Mrs Treadwell, who was the British representative for the Malaysian delegation, said Mandela told the room he was delighted to be there as the Commonwealth was important to him.
"He meant so much to South Africans and the world in terms of peace and reconciliation, and the return of South Africa to a modern democracy. "The world has lost a great icon."
PRINCIPAL HOPES MANDELA'S INFLUENCE CONTINUES IN 'RAINBOW NATION'
St Peter's College principal David Olivier said he hoped Mandela's death did not signal the end of the ''rainbow nation'' created by the influence of the great man.
Olivier was the principal of Christian Brothers' College Mount Edmund in Pretoria, located just 1 kilometre from the state president's residence.
On the day of Mandela's famous inauguration in 1994, between 100 and 150 of Olivier's students were used as ushers for the celebration.
This was done in recognition of the Catholic school's decision to open their doors to all races after the Soweto uprising in 1976.
''After we opened doors in 76, we were directly targeted by the state,'' Olivier said.
''None of the state schools would play sport against my college and the government was actively working to shut down Catholic schools in the 80s and early 90s, until the whole mood changed with Mandela."
Olivier's admiration of Mandela extends to the personally signed copy of 'A Long Walk to Freedom' taking pride of place on the bookshelf of his Palmerston North home.
His wife got it for him as a Father's Day president when she was working as a school nurse at St Mary's Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria.
It didn't initially come personally signed but fate made it happen.
''Mandela's granddaughter was at the school and she saw it sitting on my wife's desk and asked why it was there.
''She took it home and he signed it for me.''
Olivier, who shifted to New Zealand in 1996 and Palmerston North five years ago, believes Mandela's death will bring an outpouring of grief and inevitable political jostling.
It could even lead to a shake up that has been simmering under the fading influence of the former leader, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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