Source: USA TODAY
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Hundreds of people continued to be drawn Sunday night to the home where Nelson Mandela died quietly with his family around him.
Some came to mourn his death, others to celebrate his life. Amid the glow of cook fires, candles and police lighting, people walked about to see the growing shrines being built up along the streets of Houghton, an affluent district of Johannesburg.
The streets had been closed off and were jammed with people. Outside the wall that rings his home, flowers were stacked 4 feet high in some places. Candles burned in overnight shrines. People left messages and symbols of Mandela’s life, such as a pair of boxing gloves and a rugby ball.
Mandela took up boxing as an adult in Johannesburg. The rugby ball was a reference to his 1995 embrace of the traditionally white Springboks rugby team when they won the 1995 World Cup championship, in a gesture of reconciliation before the stadium crowd that did much to unite the country after decades of racial strife.
Some in the crowd danced to songs and chanted before growing still to sing the South African national anthem. In a nation once segregated by law, whites and blacks and people of various races came together.
“I see no color because of him,” said Kallia Assonitis, a white South African woman who said she was just 9 when Mandela was released from prison. She and her mother, Bernadette Assonitis, live in the Houghton neighborhood and have known Mandela casually, seeing him over the years at a local school where relatives attended.
“We are who we are because of him,” she said. “He was a magician. His last act was unifying everyone.”
Many others in the crowd were South Africans of Indian heritage.
Ridwaan Dindar brought his wife, two young children and three of their cousins to the neighborhood after earlier in the afternoon showing them Nelson Mandela Square, where a shrine has also been set up beneath a statue of the former leader.
Dindar, who runs a gas station, proudly described his family’s decades-long friendship with Mandela. He brought with him a photocopy of a brief handwritten letter of good wishes to him, signed personally by Mandela in 1990. He said his own great-uncle was a political prisoner with Mandela.
“He was a remarkable man,” Dindar said. “I had the honor of meeting him on several occasions.”
Dindar and his wife, Nazeera, are Muslim. They said they supported Mandela’s struggle and his African National Congress because their Muslim identity and Indian ethnicity meant they were regarded as black and without citizenship under the apartheid system of racial separation imposed by the minority white regime that ran South Africa until democracy was established.
“I bring my kids here to understand what this man did,” Nazeera Dindar said. “He fought for us as well. We were classified as black people. We also got our freedom” as a result of his struggle.