Nelson Mandela’s daughter, Makaziwe, Monday recounted the last moments of South Africa’s iconic former president who died last Thursday at his Johannesburg home, surrounded by friends and family.
She told the BBC, in an interview broadcast yesterday about the “wonderful” final hours of the former president, who died at 95.
As South Africa prepares for a national memorial service for Mandela today that will be witnessed by about 91 heads of state and governments, among others, the country’s parliament yesterday held a tribute session in honour of the nation’s first black president.
She said: “Until the last moment he had us, you know… The children were there, the grandchildren were there, Graca was there, so we were always around him and even at the last moment, we were sitting with him on Thursday the whole day.
“I think from last week, Friday until Thursday, it was a wonderful time, if you can say the process of death is wonderful. But Tata (Nelson Mandela) had a wonderful time, because we were there.
“When the doctors told us I think Thursday morning… that there was nothing that they could do, and said to me ‘Maki call everybody that is here that wants to see him and say bye bye’, it was a most wonderful day for us because the grandchildren were there; we were there.”
Makaziwe paid tribute to the doctors for the 24-hour care given the deceased until he breathed his last.
She said: “It was like there were soldiers guarding this period of the king – yes my father came from royalty – without them knowing they were actually practising our rituals and culture, they were there in silence and when we as family members come in, they would excuse themselves and just a few of them would be there to give us the time to be around my dad’s bed.”
According to her, for the past few months, she would tell her father that she loved him and that she would see him again tomorrow. “And maybe he would open his eyes for just a second and close those eyes,” she said.
She said she believed her father had fought not just for political freedom but also for spiritual freedom, adding: “He talked about the fact that it takes courage to forgive. Forgiveness is a very difficult thing.”
“I think he knew that if he didn’t forgive, he would be forever imprisoned spiritually. The lesson we can take from his life is to have the courage to forgive other people. None of us is born hating another – we are taught to hate and if you can teach a human being to hate you can also teach a human being to love, to embrace and to forgive,” she added. At the tribute session in honour of Mandela yesterday, his family members sat in the gallery, watching as lawmakers took turns to eulogise one of the foremost historic figures in South Africa.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said there was a “sweeping feeling of sorrow” worldwide following Mandela’s death, but the most important thing was how those left behind dealt with his legacy.
“The litmus test is whether inheritors of his dream… will be able to make the dream for which he lived come to pass in the fullness of time,” Motlanthe said.
The foreign ministry stated that 91 current heads of state or government have confirmed they are coming to South Africa, along with “10 former heads of state, 86 heads of delegations and 75 eminent persons”.
President Goodluck Jonathan, the United States President Barack Obama, President Francois Hollande of France and the United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron will be among those attending today’s memorial. Three former US presidents, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, will also be there.
On Saturday, Cuban state media announced that President Raul Castro would be one of those attending Mandela’s funeral. Under Castro’s brother Fidel, Cuba was a staunch critic of apartheid, and Mandela had expressed gratitude for his support. They will join a 95,000-strong crowd at the memorial service at Soweto’s FNB Stadium, where Mandela made his final major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.
Among those also on the list are United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, German President, Joachim Gauck, European Union (EU) Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas and India’s President, Pranab Mukherjee.
Other guests include the Prince of Wales, as well as celebrities such as Bono, Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Campbell.
With 91 heads of state attending, security will be tight. South African officials won’t talk about their security plans — how many police officers, how many troops, precautions to keep the stadium weapons and explosives-free.
“But we can assure that all necessary steps have been taken, and that is why the leadership of the world and former leaders of the world have confidence to come to our country at this time to share with us this moment,” said Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane.