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South Africans Mourn Mandela, Celebrate His Life


Mandela's death has left South Africans with a sense of profound and enduring loss, as President Jacob Zuma put it. His compatriots as well as foreign visitors are continuing to flock in homage to the Mandela homes in Soweto and where lived in Johannesburg.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joined those singing, dancing and marking the life of the man they call the father of the nation.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: This is Houghton, where Nelson Mandela lived and where he died on Thursday. Outside his house, there are literally dozens, hundreds of South Africans who have come to pay tribute, lay flowers and messages of love, support and appreciation. Now with me three generations of one family. Ma'am, your name please.

ROOKEYA ESHAK: My name is Rookeya Eshak. I'm from Lenasia, Johannesburg. It's a very special moment for us. He has brought freedom to us, and it's a day of celebration, a day of mourning, but a day of celebration for the history of South Africa. Freedom, justice, dignity - we will try and live by what he has taught us. He has left us behind with a lot of inspiration, most of all, our freedom and our dignity in South Africa - to our children. And I'm here today for them to know what Nelson Mandela was all about. I'm here to celebrate.

REEDWAN ESHAK: Sure. My name is Reedwan Eshak. I'm also from Lenasia in Johannesburg. I'm 30 years old. This for me is part of closure. It's about the closure of what the legacy of apartheid has led us to, the indignities that we suffered as non-whites. Simply being treated as a third class human. With the passing of Mandela, that has now closed. And we're now experiencing a brand-new freedom, a brand-new democracy. Although we've lost a grandfather, we've got generations ahead of us, but I'm hugely optimistic about the country. And that's the way it goes.

KHURSAD ESHAK: My name is Khursad Eshak. I came to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, not celebrate. My heart is very sore. He was a very good man. Oh, he was a very good man. This man will go straight...


QUIST-ARCTON: And you're pointing upwards to heaven.

ESHAK: Heaven. Yes.

ESHAK: Yeah.


QUIST-ARCTON: So what is his legacy for older South Africans like you, ma'am?

ESHAK: To think what they did to him and still forgave...

ESHAK: His enemy.

ESHAK: ...his enemy.

ESHAK: He forgave his enemies.

ESHAK: He forgave his enemies. He was a very great man. To forgive is not easy.

CYNTHIA NOBATHINI: (Singing in foreign language)

We were praising Madiba, everything he did for us. My name is Cynthia Nobathini. I was singing Madiba (unintelligible), like we were praising him like he is a shining star for us.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

QUIST-ARCTON: This is remarkable. It really is the Rainbow Nation that Nelson Mandela spoke about, that Nelson Mandela wanted his South Africa to be. There are black South Africans, white South Africans, Asian South Africans, Muslim South Africans. People of all races, colors and creeds have gathered here outside their home in Houghton, where Nelson Mandela died.

Excuse me, ma'am, do you feel able to talk now? I saw you having a - being a bit tearful.

ADEL STEYN: It's the first time in...

QUIST-ARCTON: Can I - first of all, I'm going to ask you your name please.

STEYN: Oh, I'm Adel Steyn.

QUIST-ARCTON: And I saw you weeping, ma'am.


STEYN: It's the first time in my life that I'm really proud. So proud to be South African. So - not anymore ashamed of what we've done, but proud. Just to be part of everyone here. And there's no more barriers, I'm proud of that. I was ashamed for so many years for what happened, but I'm not anymore. I feel part of everyone here. I don't think I need to have a burden anymore.

QUIST-ARCTON: And is that because of Nelson Mandela?

STEYN: I think so, yes, because he forgave. That, I think, was all that prevented bloodshed, yes.

QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, at Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.