9 December 2013

South Africa's Parliament Bids Farewell to Mandela

South African lawmakers have begun a joint sitting of parliament in honor of Nelson Mandela, who passed away on Thursday, aged 95. The memorial comes as part of a week of mourning for the anti-apartheid icon.

Lawmakers from South Africa's upper and lower houses of parliament returned from recess on Monday to pay tribute to their most revered national figure, Nelson Mandela.

The joint session was scheduled to commence at 1400 local time (1200 UTC) in the Chamber and would be broadcast live at public viewing spaces, according to the South African parliament's official website.

Members of the public were encouraged to attend Monday's parliamentary session in Cape Town as well, parliamentary spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said.

"[The parliamentary session] is unparalleled in terms of its significance, also in terms of its meaning," Jacobs told South African public broadcaster SABC. "We are going to try to open a few venues in Parliament to accommodate as many as possible."

A detailed program of Monday's event was not made immediately available to the public.

A week of remembrance

Following Mandela's death on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma announced a series of events to commemorate the former president's legacy ahead of his funeral.

On Sunday, people across South Africa filled houses of worship for a nationwide day of prayer to reflect on the life of the Mandela.

A larger memorial service for the public is to be held in Johannesburg's FNB stadium on Tuesday. The stadium was where Mandela made his last public appearance during the 2010 World Cup.

German President Joachim Gauck, US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are also set to attend.

Mandela's body will then lie in state until Thursday, when it is to be transported to his hometown of Qunu to be laid to rest on Friday. The small rural town lies south of Johannesburg in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.

Nelson Rolilahla Mandela, also known as "Madiba," left an indelible mark on South Africa and the world. Following nearly three decades as a political prisoner on Robben Island, he became the divided country's first black president. He won the respect and support of people across the globe for his efforts in helping heal the wounds of apartheid in his homeland through a spirit of reconciliation. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

kms/ccp (AFP, Reuters)

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