South Africa Lays Mandela To Rest Near His Childhood Home

Dec 16, 2013
Originally published on December 16, 2013 5:08 am
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Today, South Africa is marking its annual National Day of Reconciliation, its first without Nelson Mandela. It's a public holiday, so the nation is reflection on the legacy of their revered former leader who was laid to rest yesterday in his rural home village. In this report, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton rolls back the clock for an African history lesson, as revealed by Sunday's funeral.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in foreign language)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Democratic South Africa could not have won the struggle against apartheid and white minority rule without the help of its African neighbors. The 4,000 mourners assembled for Nelson Mandela's funeral were reminded of this by African presidents delving into the history books, including Mandela's exploratory secret journey across the continent back in the 1960s.

PRESIDENT JAKAYA KIKWETE: Dar es Salaam was Madiba's first port of call in January 1962.

QUIST-ARCTON: Using Mandela's clan name, Madiba, Tanzania's president, Jakaya Kikwete, took the mourners down memory lane. A much younger Mandela traveled to Tanzania to seek the support of the country's then-leader Julius Nyerere. Fast forward, and the armed wing of Mandela's outlawed African National Congress party set up shop in exile in Tanzania, with military training camps at the ANC's disposal. Kikwete said the armed struggle began in South Africa after the decision that peaceful opposition to apartheid was futile.

KIKWETE: The ANC found a new home in Tanzania, from where it operated...

(APPLAUSE)

KIKWETE: ...organized, spearheaded and prosecuted the struggle.

QUIST-ARCTON: The front line states, as they were called, like Tanzania, supported Africa's liberation movement morally and financially right through the '60s, '70s and '80s to independence and freedom in southern Africa. That was decades before Joyce Banda of Malawi was sworn in as the region's first female president last year. She, too, was inspired by Mandela during the rocky start to her presidency.

PRESIDENT JOYCE BANDA: The moment I became president of Malawi, I had been isolated, humiliated, called names and assassination attempt on my life. I found myself in a situation where I had to work with those same people that had prevented me from becoming president of my country. I had to forgive, because my Madiba had prepared me.

QUIST-ARCTON: Malawi's president described the lasting lesson she learned from Nelson Mandela.

BANDA: I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people that you serve, and the people falling in love with you.

JUSTICE MALALA: This was certainly one of the most moving, one of the most exemplary speeches.

QUIST-ARCTON: South African political commentator, Justice Malala.

MALALA: The speeches were truly drowning us in the fact that here is a continent that, in Mandela's lifetime, has gone through so much, throwing off the yoke of colonialism here at home, apartheid, and then trying to forge your way through. But it reminded us here in South Africa, and crucially, that we cannot divorce our struggle here from the rest of the continent.

QUIST-ARCTON: Tanzanian President Kikwete shared a memorable tale with funeral-goers about Nelson Mandela's African odyssey back in 1962. He left behind a pair of boots at the home of his host family, which he was meant to pick up on the way back through Tanzania.

KIKWETE: Unfortunately, he could not pass through Dar es Salaam again. And shortly after arriving back in South Africa, he was arrested and imprisoned and spent 27 years in Robben Island. In 1995, when Mandela was president, the pair of boots were handed back to him...

(APPLAUSE)

KIKWETE: ...by Mrs. Vicky Siro Swai.

QUIST-ARCTON: This weekend, the elderly Vicky Swai made the journey all the way from Tanzania to Qunu to bid her one-time special houseguest farewell. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Johannesburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.