Flags in the Cayman Islands flew at half mast Friday as Cayman joined the world in honoring the memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Cabinet ordered the Union Jack and the Cayman Islands national flag to be lowered to half mast at all government buildings, departments and schools to honor Mr. Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95.
Flags will also be flown at half mast Sunday, the date of Mr. Mandela’s funeral, according to a government announcement.
The national memorial service for the man who, as the country’s first black president forged a new multiracial, democratic South Africa, will be held at a Johannesburg stadium on Tuesday.
Among those expected to attend are U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama; former U.S. presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his predecessor Kofi Annan; British Prime Minister David Cameron; French President Francois Hollande; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and three of his predecessors; German President Joachim Gauck; Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Prince Felipe; Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff and three of her predecessors; Indian President Pranab Mukherjee; and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Mr. Mandela’s body will lie in state at the Union Buildings, the seat of government in Pretoria, from Wednesday to Friday, followed by his funeral and burial in Qunu next Sunday.
In a statement released last week, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said it grieved his heart to learn Thursday of the death of Mr. Mandela, who he described as “one of the most beloved leaders of the 20th century.”
“His struggle for freedom in South Africa was tireless and it gained him the respect of the world,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “His compassion, humility and humanity were an inspiration not only to his country, but to many of us in the Cayman Islands who want only to make lives better for our people.”
He continued, “He brought about reconciliation and hope to the people of South Africa and while he was controversial for most of his life, he eventually became a shining light of optimism for all of us, all over the world.”
The premier added, “We all knew that he had been ill; in and out of hospital for quite some time. But as in all deaths, expected or not, the loss is a heavy burden on our hearts. This is truly a sad day. But we as a world are in a better place for his service to his fellow man, South Africa and the world.
“I and the people of the Cayman Islands send our condolences not only to his family, but to the South African community as well as the diaspora.”
One resident of Cayman, Ogier law firm partner Richard de Lacy, recalled an encounter with Mr. Mandela in 2000.
“I was honored with the grant of a patent as Queen’s Counsel in April 2000. The then government, in the person of Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor in the 1997 Labour Government, had decided to advise Her Majesty to confer an honorary patent as Queen’s Counsel on Nelson Mandela at the same ceremony. Mr Mandela had been, before his ANC activities and after his release from Robben Island, a practicing attorney in the South African Courts.
“I found myself, by reason of the seating plan, seated immediately behind Mr. Mandela. He was wearing a light fawn lounge suit, unlike the other nominees and I in full-bottomed wig, dress coat, silk gown, knee-breeches and stockings, with buckled patent leather shoes. Because he and I were at the left hand ends of the first and second rows of seats, on our left were rows of benches provided for the children of the lawyers being promoted, to give them an uninterrupted side view of the proceedings.
“The memorable aspect of Mr. Mandela’s conduct was that, on taking his seat, he immediately began to engage the children to the left in conversation – about their education, what they wanted to do when they grew up, about their daily life. He turned in his seat to face them all, and the dialogue was uninterrupted until the Lord Chancellor and his procession were announced about 20 minutes later.
“He was, simply, a great human being.”
South African Eugene Bonthuys, a former Caymanian Compass journalist, also fondly recalled meeting Mr. Mandela, known to many by his clan name “Madiba,” in 1996 when Mr. Bonthuys was a student at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
“As a member of the University choir, I had the honor of performing during the presentation of an honorary doctorate to Madiba. After the event, he insisted on meeting the choir that had performed for him and shaking the hand of every one of the 50-odd members. I still remember being struck by how tall he was – for some reason he really was much bigger in person than he seemed to be on TV.
“Even in the short meeting with each of the choir members, he had the ability to make you feel like, at least for that moment, you were the only thing that mattered. The warmth of his handshake and the sincerity of his smile will remain with me always, no matter how far from South Africa I may venture.”
He added, “Madiba was once described as a tall man with soft hands and a warm heart and I cannot think of a more apt description – all of those things you experienced when you met him.”
South Africans of all races flocked to houses of worship Sunday for a national day of prayer and reflection to honor Mr. Mandela, unified in their love for a historic figure whose funeral is expected to be one of the biggest in modern times.
At the Regina Mundi Church that was near the epicenter of the Soweto township uprising in 1976 against white rule, Father Sebastian J. Rossouw described Mandela as “moonlight,” saying he offered a guiding light for South Africa. Hundreds of people attended the Mass.
“Madiba did not doubt the light,” Father Rossouw said. “He paved the way for a better future, but he cannot do it alone.”
During the service, worshippers offered special prayers for the anti-apartheid leader and lit a candle in his honor in front of the altar. Off to the side of the sanctuary was a black and white photo of Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95.
Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, joined one of his grandsons, Mandla Mandela, and South African President Jacob Zuma in a prayer service in a Methodist church in Johannesburg.
“We felt it important that we should have a day where all of us as South Africans can come together and pray for our first democratic president and reflect on his legacy,” Mr. Zuma said. “But it is also to pray for our nation … to pray that we not forget some of the values he fought for.”
Zuma said Mr. Mandela had forgiven even those who had kept him in prison for 27 years, and that he had opposed both white and black domination.