Nelson Mandela, father of the nation and the ANC, icon, idol and international role model has died, age 95!
As the news of Nelson Mandela’s death spread across South Africa, residents of Soweto gathered in the streets near the house where he once lived, singing and dancing to mourn his death and celebrate his colossal life. People from all walks of life reacted today with deep sadness at the loss of a man considered by many to be the father of the nation, while mourners said it was also a time to celebrate the achievements of the anti-apartheid leader who emerged from prison to become the country’s first black president.
President Jacob Zuma, dressed in black, announced the news of Mandela’s death on television last night, saying the 95-year-old known affectionately by his clan name “Madiba” had died “peacefully” at around 20:50 while in the company of his family. “He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
The president said all national flags would be lowered to half-mast from Friday until after a state funeral. Many South Africans, having missed the news after going to bed, would awaken to a country without its spiritual and moral leader. “First sleep in a Mandela-less world,” journalist Brendan Boyle tweeted. “We’re on our own now.” In the black of night, several hundred people milled around outside Mandela’s home in the leafy Houghton neighbourhood of Johannesburg. The mood was lively rather than sombre. Some sang and swayed. A man blew on a vuvuzela, evoking memories of the Soccer World Cup in 2010. Another marched toward the house and shouted: “Nelson!” People photographed a makeshift shrine of candles, a national flag and bouquets of flowers. A framed portrait of a smiling Mandela was propped against a tree with the caption: “Rest in peace, Madiba.” Mandela had been receiving medical care in the home in past months, where he had been in critical condition.
h3. Soweto Home
Some residents of Soweto gathered in front of Nelson Mandela’s old home in the early hours of the morning to mark his death. About 40 people formed a circle in the middle of Vilakazi Street and sang songs from the anti-apartheid struggle. Some people were draped in South African flags and the green, yellow and black colours of the ANC – Mandela’s party. “We have not seen Mandela in the place where he is, in the place where he is kept,” they sang, a lyric that anti-apartheid protesters had sung during Mandela’s long incarceration. “We are celebrating his life and all that he did for us,” said Terry Mokoena, 47, who had taped the words “Rest In Peace” on his Mandela T-shirt.
“I am happy that he is now at peace. He has done so much for us, it would be greedy for us to say that he should do more. Mandela united us – black, white, coloured and Indian – he taught us togetherness.” In front of Mandela’s old Soweto home, now a tourist attraction, two men made a shrine of flowers and candles. “He came here to Soweto as a lawyer and he led us. When he came out of jail in 1994, after 27 years, he did not come out a bitter man and encourage us to fight. No, he came out with a message of peace,” said Mbulelo Radebe, 37.
At Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, people stood at the foot of a six-metre bronze statue of Mandela, paying homage to the leader. “For 23 years, I walked a path with this man since he was released,” said Sonja Pocock, a 46-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative. “I’m from the old regime. He’s like my grandfather. He is my grandfather.” She then burst into tears. Krezaan Schoeman, a 38-year-old colleague of Pocock’s, spoke as her friend went to arrange some red flowers she had laid at the statue’s feet. “I admired him. He stood for something, for freedom and equality,” Schoeman said. “Even if some say he was a terrorist, he stood for his beliefs. Everybody’s got a right to life. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white. That’s what he stood for. And for forgiveness.”
Standing nearby with a friend, Valentino More, a black 24-year-old student, said he had heard of Mandela’s death on Twitter, then had rushed home to see Zuma make the announcement. He then came to Mandela Square, needing to pay tribute. “It came as a shock,” More said. “It’s a big day, actually, because our father just passed.” Big gatherings of mourners were expected in coming days as the country prepares a formal farewell for a man who helped guide the country from racial conflict to all-race elections in 1994. “He transcended race and class in his personal actions, through his warmth and through his willingness to listen and to empathise with others,” retired archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a statement. “He taught us that to respect those with whom we are politically or socially or culturally at odds is not a sign of weakness, but a mark of self-respect.”
Rest in Peace, Madiba!