South Africans mourn loss of Madiba, celebrate gift of freedom

December 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF:  The death of Nelson Mandela resonated across South Africa and around the world today.  Millions mourned the former president and symbol of racial reconciliation.  And officials planned a mass memorial service on Tuesday. 

We begin our coverage with Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News, reporting from South Africa. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  This was a day to mourn one life lost and a day to mark the many lives made by Nelson Mandela.  The gift of freedom is being celebrated here.  And even those lost in the sadness of his death know how much bleaker things here might have been. 

WOMAN:  Now we are free because of Madiba.  I’m very, very sorry here.  But, today, I’m sad and I have got happiness.  I don’t know what can I say. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  From his home last night, his coffin was brought away draped in the rainbow colors.  His pain is over.  But the hurt is now all theirs. 

Yet, for all the bleary eyes and broken hearts, this nation was not broken, as the old songs of the struggle from sung through the night.  And the new day brought the start of South Africa’s future. 

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, Emeritus of Cape Town:  The sun will rise tomorrow and the next day and the next.  It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  The man who freed Nelson Mandela, the last apartheid president of South Africa, spoke today of the political enemy who became a friend. 

F.W. DE KLERK, Former South African President:  He was a great man.  He was a very special man.  I think his greatest legacy to South Africa and to the world is the emphasis which he has always put on the need for reconciliation. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  Mandela’s condition had worsened over his final few days.  This was his last appearance in public, confused, frail, and fading, his stare broken only by the flash of a camera. 

This afternoon, President Zuma went to comfort the Mandela family and to finalize plans for his state funeral. 

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, South Africa:  We will spend the week mourning his passing.  We will also spend it celebrating a life well-lived, a life that we must all emulate. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  Nelson Mandela will now lie in state next week at Pretoria’s Union Buildings, once a bastion of white rule.  Here 19 years ago, he was sworn in as president, and the rainbow nation was born. 

NELSON MANDELA:  Never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  It was from this building, South Africa’s seat of government, that he helped to steer his country away from civil war. 

NELSON MANDELA:  The responsibility for driving the nation-building and reconciliation in this country is not something that can be done by others.  It is something in which I shall take a lead.  And, therefore, I have to suppress my feelings. 

ROHIT KACHROO:  But the man the world most reveres wanted to be buried far from the capital city in the village he called his home, even when politics became his life. 

Born in the British Empire, he will be buried in a distant corner of a country that is in every sense his, the man who made the miracle of modern South Africa, who brought a nation with him on his long walk to freedom.  Though the world now mourns and presidents will visit, it is ordinary South Africans who gained from his struggle and are now finding out what this democracy looks like without him.