Desmond Tutu has moved to calm fears the death of Nelson Mandela will reignite racial tensions in South Africa
Former Anglican Archbishop Tutu said claims the country might regress would “discredit Madiba’s legacy”.
Flags flew at half mast as South Africa entered a period of mourning leading up to his state funeral on December 15 in Qunu. A memorial service will take place at FNB stadium in Johannesburg on 10 December.
While South Africa has been united in mourning Nelson Mandela, some voices have expressed fears about what the future holds without him.
Sharon Qubeka, 28, a secretary from Johannesburg, told Reuters: “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.
“Mandela was the only one who kept things together.”
“I feel like I lost my father, someone who would look out for me,” said Joseph Nkosi, 36, a security guard from Alexandra township in Johannesburg.
Referring to Mandela by his clan name, he added: “Now without Madiba I feel like I don’t have a chance. The rich will get richer and simply forget about us. The poor don’t matter to them. Look at our politicians, they are nothing like Madiba.”
But Tutu said in a statement: To suggest that South Africa might go up in flames – as some have predicted – is to discredit South Africans and Madiba’s legacy. The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next… It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on.”
It comes as South Africans began taking in a future without Mandela – more and more people have been gathering at the family home in Johannesburg where he died in the company of his family.
Earlier this year he had spent months in hospital with a lung infection.
The origins of Mandela’s illness dated back to the 27 years he spent in apartheid jails.
The announcement of his death was made by the country’s current president late on Thursday night.
“Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rohlihla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed. He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20.50 on the 5th of December,” Jacob Zuma said.
All night people gathered in the streets to share the news and celebrate the life of the man who oversaw the end of white minority rule and symbolised reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.
“I’m sad but at the same time I think he’s had his part in life and he did it very well and it’s fine that he goes. He did all he could. He was old, you know,” said a young black woman, holding a child as she fought back tears.
“It’s tragic, it’s sad. But at the same time I think we should celebrate what he has achieved and what he has given us. I wouldn’t be free if it wasn’t for him,” a man added.
From prisoner to world statesman, Mandela’s death enables South Africans to take stock of the decades of momentous change he did so much to bring about.
President Zuma summed up the feelings of many in his televised address: “Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity, earned him their love,” he said.
Mandela would receive a full state funeral, Zuma added, ordering flags to be flown at half mast.
Mandela rose from rural obscurity to challenge the might of white minority apartheid government – a struggle that gave the 20th century one of its most respected and loved figures.
He was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid in 1960, but was quick to preach reconciliation and forgiveness when the country’s white minority began easing its grip on power 30 years later.
Mandela was elected president in landmark all-race elections in 1994 and retired in 1999.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, an honour he shared with F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who released from jail arguably the world’s most famous political
As president, Mandela faced the monumental task of forging a new nation from the deep racial injustices left over from the apartheid era, making reconciliation the theme of his time in office.
The hallmark of Mandela’s mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which probed apartheid crimes on both sides of the struggle and tried to heal the country’s wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.
In 1999, Mandela handed over power to younger leaders better equipped to manage a modern economy – a rare voluntary departure from power cited as an example to African leaders.
In retirement, he shifted his energies to battling South Africa’s AIDS crisis and the struggle became personal when he lost his only surviving son to the disease in 2005.
Mandela’s last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he attended the championship match of the soccer World Cup, where he received a thunderous ovation from the 90,000 at the stadium in Soweto, the neighbourhood in which he cut his teeth as a resistance leader.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.”