South Africans mourn, celebrate Mandela
South Africans living in New Zealand are mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela and looking to the future in their homeland with some trepidation with the passing of a man who brought the country together.
South African High Commissioner Zodwa Lallie said Mandela’s death had still come as a blow even though it was expected.
“He has really walked as a colossus across not only South Africa, but Africa and the world. So even through our sadness, through our loss, through our mourning, we also take time to celebrate and take strength and pride in having been so blessed as to have one as him as our president and as our leader.”
Mandela’s famous quote about fighting both white and black domination was embodied in South Africa’s Freedom Charter, which said the nation belonged to all who lived in it.
“For us that really will be the legacy,” Ms Lallie said.
“Whether he is with us or is not with us, South Africa goes on as a united democratic country where all South Africans feel they are at home.”
She said spirits were low at the High Commission.
“We’ve been dreading it, but now that it is has come, it is quite a blow, even though we knew he wouldn’t live forever,” Ms Lallie said.
“We are bereft, we are sad, but also we are celebrating the life of a great man.”
The High Commission was yet to receive official instruction from Pretoria on how the death will be marked but planning would get under way for a memorial service in Wellington.
Ms Lallie said condolence books would also be made available in Auckland and Wellington from Monday.
South Africans living in New Zealand spoke about the peace Mandela brought to their country, and their concern that extreme political groups may unhinge the good work that has been done.
Auckland recruiter Andrew Brownlee once tutored Mandela’s grandson at a tertiary college he ran in South Africa.
Mandela had kept South Africa peaceful and there was now trepidation as to whether that “sense of calmness” would remain, Mr Brownlee said.
“There’s still a lot of tension in the country, but it seems a little calmer – the country has a long way to go, but it’s come a long way.”
Cathy Mellett, who runs the www.southafricans.co.nz website, said the news of Mandela’s death gave her “goosebumps”.
“It’s absolutely a tragedy. I think he almost was, in terms of the South African environment, the Mahatma Gandhi of today. He really brought that country together.”
Ms Mellett’s husband Ian said there had been conjecture that once Mandela died, some of the more “radical” elements in the country could use it as an opportunity to spouse their views.
“And then there are others who hope the legacy that he’s left behind, in terms of that conciliatory, more peaceful approach to democratic change, that that legacy would live on.”
Sheralee Clarke worked as a press photographer in Durban for 29 years and covered many key moments in Mandela’s life, including his release from prison. “We all just loved him,” she said.