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South Africans dance and sing outside Nelson Mandela's home to honor country's 'greatest son'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The late great South African statesman Nelson Mandela's funeral will be held at his ancestral home in Qunu this coming Sunday. Countless South Africans celebrated the iconic anti-apartheid leader in dance and song, as tributes continue to pour in.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - The 95-year-old former president was unique among world leaders. After spending nearly 30 years as a political prisoner, Mandela led his country through a remarkably peaceful transition to democracy.

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Current South African President Jacob Zuma says Mandela's body will lie in state for three days before a funeral is held on Sunday, December 15 in Qunu, the village in Eastern Cape where he was born.

In the meantime, thousands of South Africans gathered outside Mandela's home in Johannesburg's Houghton neighborhood, where they sang traditional songs and danced in memory of the man known as "Madiba." Large numbers also flocked to Vilakazi Street in Soweto to Mandela's former residence.

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Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner during Mandela's imprisonment, told a church service in Cape Town that the former president would want South Africans themselves to be his "memorial." Tutu says that adhering to his values of unity and democracy would be his greatest tribute.

"All of us here in many ways amazed the world, a world that was expecting us to be devastated by a racial conflagration," he said. "God, thank you for the gift of Madiba."

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President Zuma, who had earlier confirmed news of the death, saying "the nation has lost its greatest son.

"He is now resting. He is now at peace," he said.

South Africa's last white president, F. W. de Klerk, oversaw Mr Mandela's release in 1990, before the pair received the Nobel Peace Prize together for their parts in ending apartheid.

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"He was a great man, a man of great integrity, a man of great wisdom and vision," de Klerk said. "The two sides of Mandela are Mandela the statesman, who was so focused on the necessity of reconciliation - and that will be his main legacy - but there was also Mandela the man, who was likeable and was a good friend."

"For me, he represented hope, he represented freedom," one of the many mourners outside Mandela's former home told reporters. She was 12 years old when Mandela was released.

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"So today I'm here to show I'm thankful for him. I grew up in a rural area, so it was just blacks. All I knew of white people was going to town. There were places where you could go and couldn't go. I remember from my childhood not being able to go where I wanted to go.

"As he said, the walk is far from being over, but it's a far cry from what it used to be before, so for that I'm thankful. My kids don't know what we knew, but then that's because of him."

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