Two well-known sons of Derry will be among mourners in South Africa at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria this week.
Don Mullan, author of ‘Eyewitness Bloody Sunday,’ has been invited by his good friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who met Mr Mandela on severaloccasions, is also flying out. He’ll attend the public memorial service.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ before leaving yesterday, Mr. Mullan described Nelson Mandela as a “great human being.”
“Nelson Mandela lit up with a grace that enraptured the world. He was a man of enormous love, compassion and forgiveness who was prepared to die for his vision.”
Don, who attended Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as President in 1996, will spend this week in Soweto before travelling to Pretoria for the funeral on Sunday.
Mr Mandela’s funeral cortege will travel through the streets on three consecutive days and people have been encouraged to line the route to pay their respects.
Mr Mullan plans to capture pictures of the week’s events on his mobile phone.
He said he’d been remembering Mandela’s inauguration as President.
“It was privilege to be part of that sea of humanity. People were laughing and crying at the same time that day. One woman with tears in her eyes came to me and said she couldn’t believe it was happening.
“When I heard of Nelson Mandela’s death last week I watched the coverage on television for three hours. I had expected people to be distraught, but what was extraordinary was that most of those gathering outside the home were a mixture of young black and white people celebrating his life.
“Nelson Mandela was a great leader who led them to freedom. A man who had led a very full life, someone who turned South Africa away from the brink of civil war, a man who showed amazing tolerance and brought the South African people together.
“One young person held up a placard saying ‘Your legacy is our legacy’ - in other words saying that we must carry on the legacy he has given us.
Mr Mullan revealed that Mandela was born on the very same day as his late father, Charles Mullan.
He added that while this week would be emotional he was glad to be back among the people of South Africa.
“I just think it is great that we have lived in a time when we have shared the earth with such people as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.”