Farewell Mandela

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 11:42 06/12/2013
Nelson Mandela
FATHER OF THE NATION: Nelson Mandela.

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Nelson Mandela died this morning at his Johannesburg home after a prolonged lung infection.

Marlborough Express reporter Sven Herselman recently moved to Blenheim from South Africa. He talked to other South African immigrants about Nelson Mandela.

The death of South African statesman and leader Nelson Mandela has brought to an end a golden era.

He was easily the most respected person in the country, if not the African continent and has been a household name around the world for well over two decades. For myself and my wife, as South African expatriates, the news, even though expected for some time now, was difficult to hear.

Other South Africans living in Marlborough had similar feelings of sadness at his passing as well as great concern over what would become of our homeland now that the man affectionately known as ''Madiba'' had died.

''I have this fear that the peace was there because of him being alive, that things have been held together almost out of respect for him,'' said Tersha van Deventer.

Other South African expats living Marlborough who talked to me said almost exactly the same thing; what will happen now that Mandela is no longer with us? The country is rife with violent crime, corruption and poverty, especially by New Zealand standards, but still probably the best African country to live in.

Will the death of Mandela undo the fragile bit of social cohesion that exists causing the country to begin to unravel across racial divides, or will it unify the nation?

''I might be well off the mark, and I hope I am, but I have such anxiety for my family who are still living in South Africa,'' said another expat, Megan Te Boekhorst.

She wonders if ruling party politicians will begin to take greater liberties with their power now that last surviving father of the African National Congress [ANC] party has passed away.

Respect for elders is a massive part of African culture, and this extends to politics - will ruling politicians see Mandela's death as the leash coming off?

''He's one person who 99.9 per cent of people in South Africa have respect for. I really wonder if his presence is what keeps things going, even though he wasn't actively involved in the politics, it was as if he was watching over the politicians,'' said Tizzy Pollard, who moved to New Zealand just over four years ago.

To be honest I hadn't considered these fears until I started talking to other South Africans.

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The country is in a state of mourning and while Mandela's death definitely saddens me I also feel relief for a 95-year-old man in very poor health.

Some may point the finger and ask how a young, white South African can feel a connection to one of the world's greatest emancipators of blacks, but one must never forget his greatest legacy; the peaceful transition of a country from minority rule to true democracy. I didn't realise it at the time because I was still in primary school but the country was a powder keg, with one wrong move possibly plunging it into catastrophic civil war.

It would take nothing less than a highly respected leader of Mandela's calm and collected yet charismatic temperament to see the country through.

Sadly no politician, ruling party or otherwise, have come forward who posses Mandela's leadership ability, but I certainly hope that one will.

- The Marlborough Express

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