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Government members hail Madiba and his family

M&G Reporter, Sapa

Ministers Jeff Radebe and Nathi Mthethwa, and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane have shared their thoughts on Nelson Mandela at his Soweto memorial service.

People began arriving at FNB Stadium for Nelson Mandela's memorial early on Tuesday morning. (Reuters)

The atmosphere at FNB Stadium, south of Johannesburg, was electric on Tuesday as hundreds of people danced ahead of the official memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela.

"Mandela my president, my president!" people chanted and jumped.

Liberation songs could be heard across the stadium as the downpour continued.

"Nelson Mandela, akekho ofana nawe [there is no one like you]," they sang.

Meanwhile, on their way into the stadium, various members of government stopped to speak to the media ahead of the memorial service. Here is what they had to say:

Jeff Radebe: 'We must take up Mandela's spear'
The death of former president Nelson Mandela marks the passing of an era, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on the sidelines of the official memorial service.

"I'm still very deeply emotional, because the passing on of Mandela is like the passing on of an era," he said.

"When I look at Mandela, I also look at Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo; these are the three men who made this new democracy. They turned the ANC from an organisation that was doing petitions to a strong fighting force to destroy the system of apartheid."

He said the responsibility now lay with those who remained. "We need to take the fight on for a total liberation of our country."

Radebe said it was a "shattering blow" when he heard Mandela had died.

"This is a man who had dominated South African politics for almost 60 years, and now, with a stroke of a pen, he's no more. As soldiers we need to take his spear and continue the fight."

He said the death of Mandela has united South Africans – black and white – and everyone is beginning to realise they have one common destiny.

Radebe said he was looking forward to hearing some of the international guests speak.

Nomvula Mokonyane: 'The Mandela family are survivors'
Mandela's family is doing well in the midst of their mourning, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane told eNCA news at the FNB Stadium on Tuesday

"Madiba's family is a family of survivors and this process has shown that strength," she said.

Mokonyane said the memorial service showed that "South Africa is now an assembly of nations".

She is to deliver the vote of thanks at the conclusion of the memorial service. "It's a daunting task, but again it's a mission that has been assigned and I'm quite humbled that I'll be representing South Africa in thanking the world."

She said her thanks would not just be directed to the dignitaries, but also in honour of the "elderly goga" who had braved the weather and sacrificed sleep to be at the memorial.

"When we leave here, we will be better and different people than we were before."

Nathi Mthethwa: 'It's a great day for us'
It is a great day for South Africa, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said. 

"We owe everything we have and we know [to Mandela].

"We are feeling humbled by the international support," said Mthethwa. Scores of people, including local and international media, had already entered the stadium ahead of the service.

He said Mandela was shaped by what he represented. "The movement he belonged to is a movement for the people."

Mthethwa said Mandela was characterised by good values and he felt privileged to have grown up during Mandela's time. "We who have been around him from a young age, we have really benefited a lot from him."

He said Mandela had taught them principles of openness and values of humanity.

Mthethwa told eNCA that all possible security scenarios had been considered and that the police were prepared. "We are talking about Madiba here, so there is no margin for error." 

Police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi told eNCA earlier that private security was also in use at the stadium. – Sapa

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