Saying farewell to man of vision
Only a few hours before Nelson Mandela's final farewell in South Africa, Palmerston North paid tribute to the man who united his country and was admired around the world.
About 500 people gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on Broadway Ave yesterday afternoon to pay their respects at a memorial service.
Among hymns, prayers and African drumming the audience heard tributes to Mandela from the city's spiritual leaders and St Peter's College principal David Olivier.
Mr Olivier was born in South Africa, where he trained to be a teacher and later became a school principal.
He said he first heard of Mandela, then in jail, when he was a 19-year-old university student and a friend wore a "free Mandela" T-shirt he had purchased from Europe.
Mr Olivier said displaying Mandela's image or name in public was a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment. He sought to learn more about Mandela.
Mr Olivier said the apartheid policies in South Africa at the time clashed with his views as a Christian and he did what he could to oppose them.
"The more I learnt about Nelson Mandela, the more I knew that as a people of faith we could not idly stand by and do nothing."
As principal of Christian Brothers' College Mt Edmund in Pretoria, Mr Olivier helped bus in students from the townships, who were taught after hours by volunteer teachers in the same classrooms where his fee-paying students were taught. On the day of Mandela's inauguration as president in 1994, about 150 of Mr Olivier's students were ushers.
Mandela's state funeral was held last night at his tribal home of Qunu in Eastern Cape province. He died on December 5 at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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