Mandela memorial service at Turangawaewae

Hundreds gather at memorial service

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 16:33 13/12/2013

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A marae that was the venue for a highlight of Nelson Mandela's 1995 visit to New Zealand served as the location for a tribute to his life and achievements.

More than 400 people gathered at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia for the memorial service to the former South African leader, who died a week ago.

The former activist, prisoner and president went to the marae when he came to this country 18 years ago - the highlight of his trip, he said at the time.

Today's service included the playing of a recording of a speech Mandela gave at the marae that day.

To be a guest of Maori was a great honour, he said. ''As a people who have known deprivation, we do appreciate your efforts to redeem a past of dispossession and social dislocation that colonialism has wrought on your community.''

His arrival at the marae was greeted by hundreds of children from local schools and kohanga reo lining the road outside. Many clutched palm leaves to wave at the motorcade.

Speakers at today's service included former Maori affairs minister Koro Wetere, race relations conciliator Dame Susan Devoy, Human Rights Commission adviser Rohan Jaduram and Archdeacon Eru Beattie.

Waikato-based Labour list MP Nania Mahuta read a eulogy. Prayers were recited and the service concluded with a rendition of Stevie Wonder's It's Wrong (Apartheid) .

Meanwhile, the organisers of a candlelight remembrance service for Mandela at Rugby Park on Sunday night have gained permission from the Hamilton City Council to gather on the pitch.

It will be a marked contrast in both tone and circumstance from the unauthorised access around 350 protesters gained on July 25, 1981, right before a match between the Waikato rugby side and the touring Springbok team was due to kick off.

Among those speaking on Sunday night will be John Minto, the co-leader of Halt All Racist Tours, which was instrumental in organising opposition to the tour, which had been sanctioned by the Muldoon government.

Also on the list of speakers are Green MP Kevin Hague, activists and former activists like Ripeka Evans, Donna Awatere Huata, Mereana Pitman, Angeline Greensill, long-time community campaigner Anjum Rahman and Hamilton City Councillor Dave Macpherson.While the focus is on the 1981 anti-tour movement, all are welcome to attend the service.

A Facebook page for the event has more than 200 confirmed attendees.

There will be an open mic for anyone who wishes to share their stories from 1981 or say farewell to Mandela.

Although people are welcome to bring their own candles the event, which begins at 8.30pm and runs for two hours, will be smoke and alcohol-free.

For those who would like to pay tribute to Mandela in a less politically-charged indoors setting, St Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton is playing host to another a memorial service for Mandela tomorrow night at 7pm. 

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- Waikato

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