South Africans united in mourning for Nelson Mandela on Friday, but while some celebrated his remarkable life with dance and song, others fretted that the anti-apartheid hero’s death would leave the nation vulnerable again to racial and social tensions.
President Jacob Zuma said Mandela would be buried on December 15 at his ancestral home in the Eastern Cape.
South Africans heard from Zuma late on Thursday that their first black president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, had died peacefully at his Johannesburg home in the company of his family after a long illness.
On Friday, the country’s 52 million people absorbed the news that the statesman, a global symbol of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence, had departed forever.
Zuma also announced Mandela would be honoured at a December 10 memorial service at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup final.
“We will spend the week mourning his passing. We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived,” Zuma said.
Mandela would be laid to rest at his ancestral village of Qunu, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg, in a plot where three of his children and other close family members are buried.
Despite reassurances from public figures that Mandela’s death at 95, while sorrowful, would not halt South Africa’s advance from its apartheid past, there were those who expressed unease about the absence of a man famed as a peacemaker.
“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 across the country, and trade was halted for five minutes on the Johannesburg stock exchange.
But the mood was not all somber. Hundreds filled the streets around Mandela’s home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, many singing songs of tribute and dancing.
The crowd included toddlers carrying flowers, domestic workers still in uniform and businessmen in suits. see more