News / Africa

Qunu Locals Prepare Their Own Mandela Celebration

A general view shows funeral preparations being made around the property of late former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, Dec. 12, 2013.
A general view shows funeral preparations being made around the property of late former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, Dec. 12, 2013.
Hannah McNeish
Millions of people will watch the funeral Sunday of Nelson Mandela, as South Africa's first black president and a champion of human rights is laid to rest at his boyhood village of Qunu. While the media and politicians arrive for the event, local people are planning their own celebrations for a man who rose from humble beginnings to transform the nation.

Outside what looks like a small home as you enter the village of Qunu, men offload beer for a tiny bar illuminated by lights over a billiards table and whose back room has more than 500 cases stacked to ceiling height.

The bar will host a celebration of Nelson Mandela's life Sunday as locals join the world in saying a final goodbye to the great statesman.

Eric Mjamba has been trucking meat and beer for the festivities back and forth from the nearest city of Mthatha. He said that Sunday morning - when Mandela is lowered into the ground at his hillside home - will be a somber event for the people here.

More than 90 world leaders gathered in Johannesburg on Tuesday for a memorial service honoring the late South African President Nelson Mandela.  Below are excerpts.

  • South Africa's President Jacob Zuma: Mandela was a "fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state" stand in the way for a struggle for liberation.
  • President Barack Obama: "Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals."
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "His compassion stands out most. He was angry at injustice, not at individuals."
  • Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff: "His fight went way beyond his national border and inspired men and women, young people and adults to fight for independence and social justice."
  • India's President Pranab Mukherjee: "He was the last of the giants who led the world's struggles against colonialism and his struggle held special significance for us."
  • Cuba's President Raul Castro: "Mandela has led his people into the battle against apartheid to open the way to a new South Africa, a non-racial and a united South Africa."
  • China's Vice President Li Yuanchao: "The Chinese people will always cherish the memory of his important contribution to the China - South Africa friendship and China-Africa relations.''
“Most of the people, when the body comes here of the old man, they will cry, as they liked the old man. Like myself, like myself I liked the old man, and something will happen in my heart,” said Mjamba.

But 20-year-old Pila Angel said he expects that everyone here, after Sunday's funeral, will celebrate Mandela, or "Tata" as most people called him.

“It means a lot to me, it means a lot to me, because he was the one that gave us the freedom," he said. "We are free because of him. A lot of people will be celebrating. That's all. Because, you know, after the funeral, everybody's going to celebrate. Especially for Tata, everybody's going to celebrate.”

Khumbuzile Gubenale is one of the lucky 20 people who is helping to build a tent where dignitaries and family members will gather for the funeral service. This is practically the only event that local people can contribute to, as arrangements for the great statesman's funeral are largely being handled by officials at the national level.

Gubenale, who turns 21 on Sunday, said the day will be a mix of tears, old stories and jubilation as the area's youth remember a man who has inspired so many, in a village that would have otherwise disappeared into obscurity.

“Mr. Mandela, for this community, has influenced the youth, to inspire youth to go to school. Because we've always been told that it's always important to go to school, as school is the key to success," he said. "Without school, there's no job.”

Gubenale hopes to become an accountant, rather than following in Mandela's long footsteps of the law, as he believes black Africans need to play a greater role in the country's economy.

His memory of the great man was forged when he was 13, and like other village children, went to the Mandela house to receive a Christmas present. But rather than play with the toy soldiers handed out, it was the fact that the bearer held their hands that kept Gubenale and his friends talking.

“That day to me, I was very happy to meet Mr. Mandela that day, because I hold his hands, and Mr. Mandela gave the presents, and then we know that, after we arrived home, we will play, we will be happy chatting with friends, and chatting with friends to say, how do we feel, to hold Mr. Mandela's hand,” said Gubenale.

But like everyone else in Qunu, he expects Sunday evening, after the tears have dried, to be a celebration for a man who left his mark on the world and his heart in South Africa.

“There must be no people who will be sad there. Everyone must enjoy as Mr. Mandela will not be back. Even if we are sad, Mr. Mandela is resting there. He's watching us,” he said.

Gubenale said he hopes the future might bring another hero, to continue Mandela's legacy, and to continue South Africa's long walk to freedom.

  • A card and note hang on the fence surrounding the Nelson Mandela National Museum, Mandela's former home, in Soweto, Dec. 12, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A young boy traces the letters on the Vilakasi Street sign outside of Nelson Mandela's home in Soweto, now the Nelson Mandela National Museum, Dec. 12, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Members of the Harley Owners Group, from chapters in Johannesburg and surrounding cities, visited Nelson Mandela's former home in the township of Soweto, Dec. 12, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A brass band marches through the streets in front of Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A group of mourners dance outside Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A family takes a photo in front of Nelson Mandela's home, where a makeshift memorial was set up in the street, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Mourners left flowers, posters, poems and cards, among other things, at a makeshift memorial outside of Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A memorial site set up in Nelson Mandela Square, outside of the Sandton City Mall in Sandton, a suburb north of Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Worshipers at the Melrose Hindu Temple during the national day of worship and prayer for Nelson Mandela, Dec. 8, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • People line up outside of the Union Buildings in Pretoria to sign a condolences book, Dec 6, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Mourners sign a condolences book outside of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec 6, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid