Singaporeans, expatriates pay tribute to Mandela's life

Singaporeans, expatriates pay tribute to Mandela's life
South African High Commissioner Hazel Francis Ngubeni addressing guests during a memorial service for the late Mr Nelson Mandela at the St George’s Church in Singapore on Thursday.

The late former South African president Nelson Mandela, who spent his life fighting apartheid and forging reconciliation in his beloved country, was remembered in Singapore on Thursday evening in a public church memorial service at Dempsey Hill.

More than 100 Singaporeans and expatriates of all faiths and ethnicities, including diplomats and many from the South African community, gathered at St George's Church for the service.

They listened as a choir of black and white South African students sang hymns in both English and Zulu, two of the country's 11 official languages.

In a moving address, South African High Commissioner Hazel Francis Ngubeni paid tribute to Mr Mandela's life. "We all have the qualities of Nelson Mandela in us," she said. "It's our decision what we want to do with (them)."

While many were dressed respectfully in black, one South African wore his country's national rugby team's green and gold jersey to honour Mr Mandela. "I'm just proud we were able to give him to the world," said IT consultant Marc Linnegar, 37, a white South African.

Mr Mandela had worn the Springboks jersey - previously synonymous with oppression during the apartheid era - at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's gesture at the match, which was won by South Africa, was considered by many as an important step towards reconciling the blacks and whites in the country.

Mr Mandela died on Dec 5 at the age of 95 after battling a prolonged lung infection. He brought an end to white-minority rule in South Africa by becoming its first black president in 1994, after being imprisoned by the state for nearly 30 years.

Said retired Singaporean Kitson Lam, in his 50s: "The very essence of (his) forgiveness is something you never hear world leaders today talk about."

Members of the public signed a condolence book for Mr Mandela at the South African High Commission.

Additional reporting by Amelia Teng

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