Emotions run high on South Africa streets

The Dalai Lama walks hand-in-hand with Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama walks hand-in-hand with Nelson Mandela
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As the news of Mr Mandela’s death spread across the world, people in the black township of Soweto took to the streets near the house where he once lived, singing and dancing.

Amid the deep sadness at the loss of a man considered by many to be the father of the nation, mourners said it was also a time to celebrate the achievements of the anti-apartheid leader who emerged from prison to lead South Africa.

Many South Africans heard the news of his death upon waking on Friday, and they flocked to his home in Johannesburg’s leafy Houghton neighbourhood. One woman hugged her two sons over a floral tribute. Tears were shed and prayers offered by mourners in the streets.

Flags were lowered to half mast across the country.

A black vehicle containing Mr Mandela’s coffin, draped in the national flag, pulled away from his home after midnight on Friday morning, escorted by military motorcyclists, to take the body to a military morgue in Pretoria.

South Africa’s banking association said banks will close on the day of Mandela’s funeral, 15 December.

Zelda la Grange, Mr Mandela’s personal assistant for almost two decades, said the elder statesman inspired people to forgive, reconcile, care, be selfless, tolerant, and to maintain dignity no matter what the circumstances.

“His legacy will not only live on in everything that has been named after him, the books, the images, the movies. It will live on in how we feel when we hear his name, the respect and love, the unity he inspired in us as a country, but particularly how we relate to one another,” she said in a statement.

Helen Zille, leader of the country’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, and premier of the Western Cape, the only province not controlled by the African National Congress for which Mr Mandela was a former leader, commented: “We all belong to the South African family - and we owe that sense of belonging to Madiba. That is his legacy.”