Mandela is gone, and so the work begins

As a nation buries her favourite son, it is now up to the new generation to carry the country forward.

The atmosphere in the stadium for Nelson Mandela’s memorial was electric. There was so much energy and emotion I could feel it reverberating off everyone I spoke to outside. The incessant rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of those inside or seeking shelter under the seating area.

For hours, a group of a hundred or so marched and sang around the interior of the stadium. I’m not sure any of them saw any of the speeches but they obviously didn’t care – this wasn’t about Barack Obama or Jacob Zuma or Mr President of Anywhere. It was about them, and the man they believed in before anybody else.

A security guard called Edward Lincoln told me the rain was a good omen, that it was washing away apartheid and that the heavens and ancestors across Africa were mourning Madiba.

A woman called Sasa, who I met on Vilakazi street after the memorial, told me that the people were singing so loudly so that they could drown out their sorrow.

A young boy called Nhlanhla said he wanted to be like Mandela, and when I asked him how he said he would “be good and go to school”. I think the former president would have been pleased to hear that.

Everyone I spoke to was proud and grateful of what South Africa and Mandela achieved, but each was also cognizant that a lot more needs to be done. There is still poverty and gaping inequality – but now, truly, the baton has been passed to the current and the next generation. It is their’s to carry.

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