Cape Town to pay its last respects to Mandela

Glynnis Underhill

Mayor Patricia de Lille has announced that the city will hold an interfaith ceremony on the Grand Parade from 5pm this afternoon, with free transport.

Jo'burg residents celebrate Mandela's life outside his home in Houghton. Capetonians will do the same at a ceremony on Grand Parade on Friday evening. (M&G)

Cape Town is pulling out all the stops to give its residents an opportunity to pay their last respects to the hero of the nation, Nelson Mandela.

The mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, says the city will hold an interfaith ceremony on the Grand Parade on Friday from 5pm to 7pm. The Grand Parade is the public square where Mandela gave his first historic speech after being released from prison in 1990.

"We are inviting all Capetonians to come and pay their last respects to Tata Madiba," said De Lille.

The city is providing free transport to and from the ceremony so that all Capetonians, including those who cannot afford public transport, are able to attend the service.

Some residents have already begun the long journey from outlying townships to join in the mourning and celebration of Madiba's life. And many Capetonians are aware that they will be gathering in the spot where he addressed the people after spending 27 years in prison.

Historic speech
Mandela was released from his long incarceration with little warning, but the crowds surged to the Grand Parade to see him in person. An estimated 150 000 to 250 000 people descended on the public square to listen to him deliver his first public speech.

The crowds waited at the Grand Parade for hours and were not disappointed when the greatest political figure and statesman South Africa has ever seen finally arrived. Mandela spoke to the entire nation from this historic spot, revealing his humility and ability to reconcile.

"Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today," Mandela told the crowds. "I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands."

In tribute to South Africa's first black president, the flags are flying at half-mast at City Hall, which is across the road from the Grand Parade. City Hall and the Civic Centre have been allocated as public viewing areas where residents can sign a condolences book. 

A number of roads in Cape Town have been closed to accommodate the event, including Longmarket and Corporation Streets. And in recognition of the fact that most Capetonians still cannot afford public transport, the city has organised a free shuttle bus service – transport into the city runs from midday to 3pm and outbound buses will run from 7pm.

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