Qunu mourns favourite son

AS THE sun rose over Qunu yesterday, residents of Nelson Mandela’s hometown struggled with news of his death. 

Relatives like Xolani Mandela, son of Napilisi Mandela, a close relative of the family, were devastated.

Xolani said he heard the news over the phone when journalists called his father asking him about Madiba’s death.

“Yes he was old, but death is never easy to accept, no matter how critically ill he was,” said Xolani.

Other Qunu residents like Kikiki Gangalele, 57, were in shock after learning of the news of the death of South Africa’s first democratic president.

“We were not prepared for this. We knew he was ill but we thought he was recovering. He was old, we understand, but one can never prepare for death,” said Gangalele.

He had just learnt of the news from a relative who was on his way back to Qunu from Cradock.

Another resident, Madlathu Dela, who also only heard the news yesterday morning, was “beyond shocked” but he said he was happy Mandela was finally at peace.

“I wish people can release him from their hearts because he is finally resting,” said Dela.

Nokhanyile Nzeki, who was on her way to town when she saw a crowd standing outside Madiba’s house, including police, army vehicles and soldiers, had no idea what was going on until she heard from journalists who were part of the group.

“Oh my God, we were hoping he would stay alive,however fragile he was,” said Nokhanyile Nzeki, holding back tears.

Another resident, Mawethu Habe, 54, said it was a big loss to Qunu.

“He was our pride. I could not believe it when I was told by my children but when I heard it over the radio this morning, it started to sink in,” said Habe.

“The one thing we love most about him is he was our first black president, who delivered us from slavery.”

When the Daily Dispatch team arrived at Madiba’s home, Xhosa praise singer and teacher Xolile Madolo was shouting outside the gates, begging villagers to wake up as the “great tree has fallen”.

The 42-year-old Madolo, from Bongweni near Mthatha, said he had decided to make the drive to Mandela’s Qunu home after hearing President Jacob Zuma’s official announcement.

Madolo’s wife, Phumla, knelt down in prayer in front at the gates.

“I’m saddened by the loss of a great stalwart,” Madolo said in his praise singing.

“We are under siege, we are now fighting each other. Most people are still holding on to the ANC out of respect for Mandela who had built an organisation of discipline and respect,” Madolo added.

Madolo called on the villagers to wake up as “a great tree has fallen”.

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