Mandela wall becomes tourist attraction

2013-07-03 08:16

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The wall of tributes outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, where former president Nelson Mandela is receiving treatment, has become a tourist attraction.

Interest in Mandela memorabilia has also peaked with items such as T-shirts, portraits and necklaces selling fast.

Godfrey Mooketsi sells ANC flags and headcloths outside the hospital. He has earned R15 000 this week, Beeld reports.

He said his prices were low but that he would double them when the time came.

Yesterday, another vendor sold yellow T-shirts with Mandela’s image and the words: “I love you Mandela” on them.

Zadok Olinga, an Engineering Masters’ student at the University of Pretoria, took eight Chinese visitors on a tour of the wall, adorned with flowers, balloons and tributes to Madiba on the day.

The visitors, from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, are attending an energy conference at the University of Pretoria.

Assistant professor at Zhejiang University, Xianggou Xu, said: “It’s out first time in South Africa. We thought we can’t be in South Africa, in Pretoria, and not come to pay tribute to our icon.”

Xu, the only tourist comfortable to be interviewed because others were “conscious” of their English, said they asked to be given an hour’s break from the conference to visit the hospital.

Holding a video camera and another one for pictures, Xu said Mandela was a world class leader.

“We’re grateful to be here because it is historic. For us Mandela means a very rich spirit. He conquered all the difficulties to help others and not just himself. To the history of the world, he stands as an inspiration for how leaders should be.

“We just had to come and be here because it is a chance that will not be available forever to honour him,” Xu said, adding they had been keeping tabs on Mandela’s health since he was admitted on June 8.

This weekend, the museum at the Howick capture site, near the place where Mandela was arrested on August 5 1962, was abuzz with activity thanks to local and international visitors, Sphumelele Mngoma reports.

Said Herb Schmidt, one of the visitors, from Gauteng: “We are an old couple and South Africa has changed dramatically in our time. He (Mandela) is what symbolises that change for us.”

Stephen Lambert, also from Gauteng, said it was the second time he and his wife had visited the site. “For us, it’s about recharging at such a significant time for the whole country.”

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