07 December 2013 by Stuart Buchanan

Cape Town commemorates Mandela

Cape Town, South Africa’s ‘Mother City’, and the legacy of Nelson Mandela are inextricably linked. This is where he spent many years in prison, and where, upon his release, he also spent five years in Parliament, located in the city centre, as president of the country.

Flags fly at half mast outside Parliament
Candles are lit in memory of Nelson Mandela underneath an image of Saint George

On Friday morning, following the news of Nelson Mandela's passing, I took to the streets of Cape Town to see where people were going, what kind of mood had settled over the city, and if there was any physical sign of the great loss the world has just experienced.

I was also motivated by a simple question: what now? So much of the world, never mind this city, has been changed simply by his presence in it, and now, only his legacy remains. I think the question will take a lot longer to answer.

It was a city tinged with both sadness and celebration.

On this, the first morning of a world without Nelson Mandela, ordinary people, Capetonians and visitors alike, were simply reacting to the news, and visiting the sites that helped them process it. St George's Cathedral, located at the foot of the Company's Garden in the heart of the city, and the City Hall were obvious gathering points. Outside Parliament, flags flew at half mast. And in special message books, on noticeboards, and even just on the sides of fences and walls, spontaneous messages of love and appreciation for Tata Madiba started to appear. It was a city tinged with both sadness and celebration.

A television crew arrives outside St George’s Cathedral
Flowers are laid under an image of Mandela inside St George’s Cathedral
Visitors from all around the world paid their respects at St George’s Cathedral, and left messages of love and support
A message book at St George’s Cathedral has been provided for visitors to pen a few words about Nelson Mandela
People begin to arrive for a special church service in honour of Nelson Mandela
Table Mountain provides a backdrop for the flags outside Parliament, flying at half mast
Flowers and messages are left for Mandela outside the gates of Parliament
City Hall becomes the main gathering site for many in Cape Town who wish to mourn Mandela’s passing
Media crews have a busy time ahead of them
People queue in the street in front of City Hall to sign message books
More spontaneous tributes to Mandela appear outside the Methodist church in Greenmarket Square
Pedestrians stop to look at a piece of the Berlin Wall that was given to Mandela as a gift in 1996, now displayed at the top of St George’s Mall
Every front page carries the sad news of Mandela’s passing

See also:

Celebrating Madiba's life with song and dance (and plenty of #MadibaMagic)

Tata Madiba, we salute you

Nelson Mandela: An icon in life and death

Category: Culture & History, Events

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