Life goes on despite ailing Mandela

People in Soweto accept and prepare for the day when former president is no longer with them.

The crowd is young, beautiful and stylish at the Soweto restaurant, Sakhumzi. Women and men are chatting, glasses are charged and Castle Lagers stand in ice buckets on the wooden tables.

A wintry Johannesburg wind howls outside on Vilakazi Street, but cannot compete with the chorus of voices and a soundtrackof RnB music within.

“It’s always like this,” says Benjamin Mamatela, the manager of Sakhumzi. “Today was just a little quieter because of the weather.”

Just across the road from Sakhumzi is the old house of former president Nelson Mandela. Now 94, in hospital in Pretoria and facing a lung infection for the third time this year, his condition has been described as serious.

Inside the restaurant there is not just a sense of acceptance that Mandela is reaching the end of his life, but a feeling that people are ready to move on. Even on this historic street, people are going about their business.

Keith Khoza, a spokesman of the ruling African National Congress is seated at one of the tables in Sakhumzi. Just a day ago he told media that South Africans needed to hold hands and pray for Mandela.

Mpho Mahaltsi, sipping her glass of wine, says that she is sad about Mandela’s ill-health, but she has accepted that Nelson Mandela is old and will die.

“If anything happens, so be it,” she says.

Her friend, Thuli Sebati, says that like any person of Mandela’s age, he must be allowed to rest.

“He has played his part. He has done us proud. We no longer walk around with identity documents in our pockets.”

During the apartheid years, black South Africans were forced to carry “pass” documents which identified their race and where they lived.

Black people were not allowed to be outside the areas designated to them by the government, and were arrested when they were found to be.

Mahaltsi and Sebati say that when Mandela does die, there will be sadness, but people will celebrate his life. 

“We won’t forget the sacrifice. He sacrificed for us and it’s the sacrifice that we will remember.”

by Safeeyah Kharsany

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