A woman with a Nelson Mandela t-shirt and badges sings and
dances along with others in front of the Town Hall in Cape
Town. Photo by Reuters
South Africans united in mourning for Nelson Mandela
yesterday, but some feared the anti-apartheid hero's death
could leave their country vulnerable again to the racial and
social tensions he did so much to pacify.
As dawn broke and commuters headed to work, many expressed
shock at news of the death of a man who was a global symbol
of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.
President Jacob Zuma announced late on Thursday (South
African time) the former president and Nobel Peace Prize
laureate died peacefully at his Johannesburg home in the
company of his family after a long illness.
Despite reassurances from leaders and public figures that Mr
Mandela's death would not halt South Africa's advance away
from its bitter apartheid past, some still expressed a sense
of unease about the physical absence of a man famed as a
''It's not going to be good, hey! I think it's going to
become a more racist country. People will turn on each other
and chase foreigners away,'' said Sharon Qubeka (28), a
secretary from Tembisa township.
''Mandela was the only one who kept things together.''
Flags flew at half-mast as South Africa entered a period of
mourning leading up to a planned state funeral next week.
Many attended church services, including another veteran
anti-apartheid campaigner, former archbishop of Cape Town
Desmond Tutu. He said that like all South Africans he was
''devastated'' by Mr Mandela's death.
''Let us give him the gift of a South Africa united, one,''
Bishop Tutu said, holding a Mass in Cape Town's Anglican St
An avalanche of tributes continued to pour in for Mr Mandela,
who had been ailing for nearly a year with a recurring lung
illness dating back to the 27 years he spent in apartheid
jails, including the notorious Robben Island penal colony.
United States President Barack Obama and British Prime
Minister David Cameron were among world leaders and
dignitaries who paid tribute to him as a moral giant and
exemplary beacon for the world.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Mr Mandela was
''Nelson Mandela will be remembered for being an incredibly
inspirational leader,'' he said.
''Someone that was a beacon of hope for the people of South
Africa but someone that also believed passionately in
New Zealanders had great admiration for him, Mr Key said.
But for South Africa, the loss of its most beloved leader
comes at a time when the nation, which basked in global
goodwill after apartheid ended, has been experiencing bloody
labour unrest, growing protests against poor services,
poverty, crime and unemployment and corruption scandals
tainting Mr Zuma's rule.
Many saw today's South Africa still distant from being the
''Rainbow Nation'' ideal of social peace and shared
prosperity that Mr Mandela had proclaimed on his triumphant
release from prison in 1990.
Just hours after the news, Bishop Tutu sought to assuage
fears the absence of Mr Mandela might revive some of the
violent ghosts of apartheid.
''To suggest that South Africa might go up in flames - as
some have predicted - is to discredit South Africans and
Madiba's legacy,'' Bishop Tutu said in a statement.
''The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next
... It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will