“It’s electric. We’re South Africans – when we’re happy we sing, when we’re sad we sing. It’s a celebration. He gave us 95 years of his life and the sacrifices he’s made, we couldn’t have done it without him,” Patrick Jacobs, a lab analyst from Sasolburg in the Free State, told CNBCafrica.com.
“This is actually the last place that we saw him in public so it’s significant that his memorial is here. It’s mixed with emotion. Back then it was the World Cup, we were proud. Now, it’s got a little sorrow – it’s bittersweet.”
The memorial service, which is being held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday, will include tributes from apartheid activist and family friend, Andrew Mlangeni and the Mandela family.
The United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and US President Barack Obama will also offer their tributes to South Africa's first black president.
Jacobs expressed his awe at having seen the reaction from the local as well as international communities.
“I’m going to cry, I’m going to laugh, I’m going to feel honoured. The mere fact that so many heads of state have made it to South Africa, tells you about the immenseness of the man. The man is great and I’m here for my family, to witness this moment,” he said.
“I’m so proud. The one thing that I wish for my country is that we could build from this and really become a great nation. I’m proud to be South African. I’m proud because of Nelson Mandela. We were not allowed into places, we didn’t have rights and we didn’t even know his face. Now, everybody knows him.”
The memorial service will begin at 11am CAT.