The death of South Africa's first black president sparked scenes of sorrow and joyful remembrance in his homelandby Justice Malala / December 6, 2013 / Leave a comment
Nelson Mandela with his predecessor Frederik de Klerk in 1992
JOHANNESBURG—They were singing freedom songs in Soweto this morning.
A common, mournful tune, sung in the Sesotho language, was among the more popular as dawn approached: “Nelson Mandela! Nelson Mandela! Ha hona ya tshwanang le ena! (No one compares to him!).”
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s greatest and most famous son, had passed away peacefully at 8.50pm local time on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma announced. A hush fell over the nation, and then a cacophony of commentary and tributes poured in from world leaders around the globe. Speeches were made, and sadness shared, everywhere from Washington DC to London.
Outside Mandela’s family home in Johannesburg crowds gathered; tears covered every face—and smiles too.
South Africa mourns Mandela. On social networks, in the media, the outpouring of grief is huge—and it will only intensify over the next two weeks. With it, however, is an immense pride that a human being of the stature of Mandela lived here, walked among us and led us. As South Africa prepares to celebrate 20 years of democracy, the ideas and person of this great man are omnipresent.
When we speak of the “Rainbow Nation” that South Africa has become, it is him we credit with its creation. When we speak of the institutions of democracy that now stand at the centre of our nation and its politics, it is Mandela’s vision and name that epitomises them.
In a country that was divided by 46 years of apartheid until 1994, this morning black and white sang together outside Mandela’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg. Over the past year, as he was frequently hospitalised, and as South Africa’s political atmosphere soured with the elections scheduled for 2014 looming ever nearer, Nelson Mandela always managed to bring South Africans together. This morning, in the harsh light of a world without him, he still unites us. As I write, at 2.38am, it feels as if everyone I know is up and calling each other, tweeting, touching, mourning. Celebrating.
These scenes of celebration that we are seeing outside his house in sleepy, suburban Johannesburg; are being replicated in Soweto and other parts of the country.
Yet there are niggling questions. The key political debate that has haunted many has been the “After Mandela” question: what happens when the great man goes? What…