Nelson Mandela

Hong Kong pays tribute to Nelson Mandela at memorial service

Hong Kong's South Africans remember icon of the anti-apartheid movement at cathedral

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 5:29am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 8:10am

Hong Kong's South African community joined the city's diplomatic corps and senior government officials to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela at a memorial service in Central yesterday.

About 120 people attended the service at St John's Cathedral, where they listened to an address by South African consul Phumelele Gwala in remembrance of the country's first black president, who died last week aged 95.

"Let us celebrate his life and the future he gave us," Gwala told the congregation.

She quoted poignant lines from a eulogy Mandela delivered when another icon of the anti-apartheid movement, Oliver Tambo, died in 1993. She also spoke of Mandela's visit to Hong Kong 22 years ago.

In April 1991, Mandela flew to Hong Kong to urge the city to maintain sanctions against the apartheid regime.

South African high school student Niall Higgins, in Hong Kong on a three-week study tour from Benoni High School in Gauteng, recited a passage from Mandela's 1994 autobiography Long Walk To Freedom and spoke of how Mandela's spirit lives on.

"Even though I wasn't a part of his generation, his legacy touches the young generation of South Africa today," he said after the service. "Every time I remember Madiba, I remember to try and imitate his nature so it can be part of my soul."

Mal Thompson, who moved from South Africa to Hong Kong in 1985, spoke about the watershed moment when Mandela wore a Springboks jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.

"We all love sport, South Africans in particular, and Mandela used it as a platform for reconciliation at a time when the black South Africans saw the Springboks shirt as a sign of apartheid. He decided, against advice, that he would wear that. It was a defining moment," Thompson said.

The 90-minute service ended with attendees singing the South African national anthem, which has verses in five languages.

Mandela will be buried in his hometown of Qunu tomorrow. The public are invited to sign a condolence book at the South African consulate's temporary office at Room 1222, China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, between 2pm and 5pm on Monday.