Tourists, locals venture out to celebrate Madiba’s life

2013-12-07 18:08

Tourists are flocking to South Africa to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.

Today, no fewer than 10 groups of tourists descended on Thokoza Park in front of the historical Regina Mundi Church in Soweto to pay their respects, saying there was nowhere else in the world they would rather be.

Lollie Hunt, an American tourist who was there with three friends, said as soon as he heard of Madiba’s death, he and his friends booked their tickets and flew to South Africa straight away.

“My mother taught in Soweto in the early 80s and she would tell me about Soweto and Regina Mundi and its historical context in the fight against apartheid. You know, there is no better place to say goodbye to Madiba than to say it here. We just couldn’t miss this time in history.”

Nearby, a group of tourists from Germany were also exploring the area around the church.

Wolfgang Hans and nine friends also booked flights upon hearing of Mandela’s death.

“We have always wanted to come to South Africa and we think this is really a fitting moment. We want to be part of this historical moment. There is no doubt that Mandela is the greatest human being who ever lived. Its only fair that we bid him farewell in the country of his birth,” he said.

A man and his wife from Tanzania who didn’t want to be named said they had also come to celebrate Mandela’s enduring legacy.

“Mandela is actually Sowetan, that’s why we are here. We know he was born in the Eastern Cape, but he spent most of his adult life here before he was arrested,” said the man.

But it wasn’t just international visitors who were out and about remembering Mandela.

Locals descended on Thokoza Park in numbers to braai, drink and sing liberation struggle songs in small groups.

Thoko Mdlulu said: “There is no time for mourning. We are celebrating a life well lived. This is what Madiba would have loved to see us do in honour of his memory.”

It was the same at Johannesburg’s Zoo Lake – people were in a jovial mood, drinking, sharing meat and laughing over their memories of Madiba.

At Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, where Madiba was arrested and subsequently charged with high treason in the early 1960s, friends and families walked up and down, listening to Madiba’s history broadcast over a PA system.

They also took pictures and read about his life on the vast historical artefacts on display.

An orchestra serenaded them with famous tunes such as Silent Night and Amazing Grace.

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