Struggle veterans mourn Madiba

Colleagues from the struggle mourn the passing of SA’s first democratic president.

Thousands of people chant outside Nelson Mandela Soweto house in Vilakazi Street to pay tribute to him following his death on 6 December 2013. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The announcement of former president Nelson Mandela's death at age 95 has brought about a great outpouring of emotion from all sectors of society with many sharing their tributes via social networks.

Many are also calling into radio stations to share their memories with some even choosing to honour him in song.

Amongst those who have shared memories in the hours following the announcement of his death are his comrades from the days of struggle, his closest friends, colleagues and international leaders.

CapeTalk's Kieno Kammies spoke to Mbazima Shilowa who was Cosatu General Sectary during Nelson Mandela's term as president.

Shilowa reflected on the lighter side of Madiba's nature, saying he loved life.

"He could take the mickey out of people."

Shilowa also remembers in 1996 how Mandela came to Cosatu House to meet with them about an imminent strike.

"Everyone thought he was going to try and talk me out of embarking on protest action. Instead he said, "Let me understand this".

Shilowa urged South Africans to celebrate his life and try and emulate him.

"Mandela should be remembered in song and laughter . "

Meanwhile, struggle hero George Bizos, who represented Madiba and Walter Sisulu during the Rivonia Trial, shared his deep sadness with CapeTalk's Africa Melani at finding out about the passing of his great friend.

"You wonder if we will ever find another one willing to do so much for so many."

As a lifelong friend and a constant visitor throughout the prison years, Bizos remembers being in the court room as Mandela delivered his iconic speech during the Rivonia Trial.

"His courage in not bending to the will of the oppressors inspired many in the country and many of his co-accused. His willingness to forget and forgive the wrongs done to him personally and the vast majority in the country makes him a person who we will never forget."

Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada reflects on 60 years of friendship with Mandela who he calls an elder brother.

"One can never prepare for the time when it happens."

Kathrada's tangible emotion reflects the feelings of many in leadership who depended on Madiba as a mentor.

"Who do I turn to now?" he asks.

Businessman, politician and anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwale says the country has lost its father.

"The people of our country from all walks of life have lost their father".

Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who was Minister of Finance during Mandela's presidency, said although they all had known Madiba's death would happen, nothing could really have prepared them for it.

He reflected on how Mandela had seen the potential in him.

"It's a remarkable relationship that speaks of his graciousness and affirmation of somebody like me, a boy from the Cape Flats, an unknown entity without a university education".

Manuel remembered a meeting with Mandela two years ago and how Mandela had said, "Do you remember those people who said I was crazy to appoint you? Looking back now I was glad I was able to prove them wrong."

Above all Manuel said, "He was a strategist without a peer in the world".