In Qunu, the home village of former South African president Nelson Mandela, residents fear they may never see their beloved Madiba again. Many came to his home, anxious for news about his health and to wish him well, including Nophelo Xwarha, the woman who tended his garden for eight years.
“We hope he gets better as we will always remember him,” she said.
Qunu villager Makhwenweni Jali worked on the farm above Mandela’s home for 11 years. Referring to him by his circumcision name Dalibunga favoured by the Xhosa meaning ‘found of the new power’, he spoke of his gratitude:
“I just want to thank you for what you did for us here. Even if you die, I am thanking you, Dalibunga. You did a beautiful thing. We are all living this life because of you. People in this area are grateful for what you did and for you,” he declared.
Eight-year-old Louka wanted to wish Mandela well. When asked by a reporter why Madiba was so important to her she replied, “because he took care of our country.”
Her aunt Louka Bam-Sibanyoni said she had browsed the internet for hours overnight after hearing that Mandela’s condition had worsened, and came hoping to get more news on his health. Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe called the media ‘vultures’ and repeated a call for them to respect her family’s privacy. Louka agreed that the family needs space but emphasised the nation’s need to express their own grief:
“He is as much ours as he is theirs and they will also give us time, you know, to go through the process with them.”