How do you say goodbye to Nelson Mandela?
The question South Africa has been grappling with over last few weeks
“Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves. It’s almost like spitting in Madiba’s face,” the archbishop said in a statement, directed at the sparring family members.
“Your anguish now is the nation’s anguish – and the world’s. We want to embrace you, to support you, to shine our love from Madiba through you.”
The remains of three of Mandela’s children – Makaziwe, Thembekile and Makgatho, who died in 1948, 1969 and 2005 respectively – were reburied in Qunu on Thursday, reversing a move two years ago by Mandela’s eldest grandson.
Mandla Mandela had relocated the remains to his village of Mveso, 20km away, as part of a plan to profit from his grandfather’s legacy, other family members claimed. He denied the charge, and accused them in turn of money-grabbing.
South Africans have recoiled at some aspects of the family’s behaviour, and there were jaw-dropping moments on Thursday when Mandla Mandela spoke at a press conference about the sexual history of other family members in order to affirm his credentials as the rightful head of the household.
Some believe such debate is not just distasteful but taboo, with claims from more tradition quarters that public discussion of Mandela’s health is “unAfrican”. Being South Africa, however, there is no consensus on the issue and yesterday the country’s chief rabbi Warren Goldstein welcomed the “obsession” with Mandela’s health, saying it was an expression of the esteem in which he is held.
That obsession is visible in the lines of photographers camped outside the hospital entrance, filming each visitor, and in the wall-to-wall press coverage, which at times descended into mere coverage of the coverage. The Star of Johannesburg was reduced to filing a dispatch on what the foreign media was eating. “The ABC News crew lunched on a cooked meal from a local Portuguese restaurant yesterday, a break from the normal quick chicken meals,” it revealed.
There has been bickering, too, over attempts to commercialise aspects of the outpouring of goodwill.
Outside the hospital in Pretoria, you can get a Mandela-style ANC beret for 60 Rand (€4.60), and an on-the-spot picture-and-print for 20 Rand (€1.50). A businessman was arrested earlier this week for flying a miniature helicopter over the hospital; he was hoping to sell the pictures to the media.