Johannesburg: Nelson Mandela had a "wonderful time" in his last few days as his wife Graca, his children and grandchildren were all there to say goodbye, the anti- apartheid icon`s daughter has said.
"Until the last moment he had us, you know...The children were there, the grandchildren were there, Graca was there, so we are always around him and even at the last moment, we were sitting with him on Thursday the whole day," Makaziwe Mandela was quoted as saying by the BBC.
"I think from last week, Friday until Thursday, it was a wonderful time, if you can say the process of death is wonderful. But Tata (Nelson Mandela) had a wonderful time, because we were there," she said.
Mandela, South Africa`s first black president who steered his nation out of apartheid and into multi-race democracy, died late on Thursday at the age of 95 after protracted illness.
The `National Day of Prayer and Reflection` yesterday started off an official programme of mourning, including a memorial service at a Johannesburg stadium tomorrow, culminating in a state funeral on December 15 at Mandela`s Eastern Cape ancestral home of Qunu, expected to be one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in decades.
"When the doctors told us I think Thursday morning...That there was nothing that they could do, and said to me `Maki call everybody that is here that wants to see him and say bye bye`, it was a most wonderful day for us because the grandchildren were there, we were there," Makaziwe said.
She also paid tribute to the doctors for the 24-hour care.
"It was like there were soldiers guarding this period of the king - yes my father comes from royalty - without them knowing they were actually practising our rituals and culture, they were there in silence and when we as family members come in they would excuse themselves and just a few of them would be there to give us the time to be around my dad`s bed," she was quoted as saying.
Makaziwe said that, for the past few months, she would tell her father that she loved him and that would see him again tomorrow.
"And maybe he would open his eyes for just a second and close those eyes," she said.
Makaziwe said she believed her father had fought not just for political freedom but also for spiritual freedom.
"I think he knew that if he didn`t forgive, he would be forever imprisoned himself spiritually. The lesson we can take from his life is to have the courage to forgive other people," she said.
President Pranab Mukherjee will be among 70 heads of state and government and global figures who will attend a memorial service in South Africa tomorrow for the anti-apartheid icon, making it one of the largest such gatherings in generations.