South Africans say goodbye to Mandela with song and dance

6th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of people rushed to Nelson Mandela's Johannesburg home upon hearing of his death Thursday, breaking into song and dance in a joyful impromptu vigil celebrating their hero.

More than 500 people had gathered in the middle of the night in the well-heeled suburb of Houghton, with its high walls and jacaranda-lined avenues, singing anti-apartheid songs.

In a mood of reflection and celebration of Mandela's amazing life, people waved flags, shouted "Viva Mandela!" and "Long live Madiba!"

On a cool summer's night, several people were seen waving the flag of South Africa, while others were shown dancing and laughing. One woman held a candle. Others laid floral tributes.

Cars lined the streets, stretching three blocks away from the house. More and people, some clad in ANC colours, were still arriving in the early hours of the morning after hearing the news. Some had even rushed to the house in their pyjamas.

One of those outside the house, Ashleigh Williams, said she had the news on television and felt compelled to rush to the former president's home.

Some had flocked from as far away as Soweto, the iconic township south of Johannesburg, where Mandela once lived.

"I knew this day would come, but what can I say our beloved Madiba fought a good fight, now it's time to rest," Williams said.

"My heart is full of joy and sadness at the same time. He left a great legacy. I don't think anyone will ever be able to fill his shoes."

The crowd was diverse in terms of race and age. Teenager Asthyn Ariel, born in 1994, called Mandela an "icon".

"I think it's the moment where South Africa will really shine as a nation throughout the world. I think we are ready to show that thanks to Madiba we have changed for the better. We are a united rainbow nation."

TV images showed residents of the neighbourhood walking arm-in-arm through surrounding streets before heading towards Mandela's home.

A local gardener, Reginald Mokoena, said: "I was there when he walked out of prison, I'm here now, it's all so unreal. Our hero is gone."

He added: "The old man is gone, but this is no time for tears."

Others though could not contain themselves.

"It's a sad day for South Africa that's all I can think of," said a weeping Faiza Mohamed.

© 2013 AFP

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