Flowers fade for Mandela

 Flowers are seen at the tribute area at Nelson Mandela Square, 6 December 2013. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Flowers are seen at the tribute area at Nelson Mandela Square, 6 December 2013. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

More than a hundred bunches of flowers tied to the railings outside Parliament, tributes to statesman and struggle icon Nelson Mandela, hung wilting in the mid-morning sun on Sunday.

“Teacher of Humanity” proclaimed a poster, with a red heart drawn in the centre, pinned to the ironwork alongside a bunch of white chrysanthemums, outside the precinct’s Plein Street entrance.

Opposite, worshippers streamed into St Mary’s Cathedral for the 10am service.

Father Jerome Aranes sat at the door, welcoming them into the building. Nearby, an altar boy stood swinging a thurible, its smoky incense filling the church porch.

Asked whether he would be making mention of Mandela who died on Thursday evening at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg in his service, Aranes told Sapa there would only be a general reference to the former president, because a dedicated service for him had been held on Friday.

“But if you stay for [this] service, [Minister in the Presidency] Trevor Manuel is going to speak afterwards on anti-corruption,” he said.

Back across the street, just outside Parliament’s main gates, a bare-footed man in a dirty blue overall lay face down on the pavement. Apparently asleep, one of his shoes lay a metre away; the other was nowhere to be seen.

Above him, along the security railings, multi-coloured bunches of flowers, including roses, irises and sunflowers, were shedding their petals in the rising heat.

Two tourists, who declined to be named, posed in front of them to take photos of themselves.

“He was a great man,” one of them said in a German accent.

“Your country is going to miss him,” said the other.

Downtown, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, photographs and a posters of Mandela were on display in the main foyer. The centre is hosting the 17th International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa.

Just after 9am, a young woman stood behind a raised display in the foyer, answering questions on safe sex and contraception. About a dozen delegates had gathered, listening to her advice.

To her left, a black and white poster of Mandela, depicting his head and shoulders, hung next to one with the word “Lubricant”, the incongruous contrast set against a backdrop of brightly-coloured condoms.

A more poignant tribute could be found further along, at the bottom of the centre’s main escalator.

There, a group of larger posters showed scenes from the dead hero’s life, including photographs of him hugging supermodel Naomi Campbell, and posing with British royal Princess Diana and then Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“The world has lost an extraordinary statesman and human being,” the International Aids Society (IAS) said in a statement, released at the conference.

The IAS paid tribute to Mandela and his efforts to make HIV and Aids “an issue that the world could no longer ignore”, citing a speech he made at the opening of the 13th International Aids conference in Durban in 2000.

“This is the one event where every word uttered, every gesture made, has to be measured against the effect it can and will have on the lives of millions,” he said on that occasion.

Mandela will be buried in his home town of Qunu in the Eastern Cape next Sunday.


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