Twenty years after apartheid ended in South Africa, deep divisions remain but the country has also moved on, thanks largely to Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
On a journey spanning over 1400km from Mandela’s Johannesburg haunts to his boyhood village of Qunu, Al Jazeera visited some of the most starkly contrasted places to find out how “the father of the rainbow nation” will be remembered and whether his legacy will continue.
Many of the people who had flocked to Mandela’s Jhome in Johannesburg, hours after hearing about his death had never been to the upscale Houghton district before.
Its wide, leafy streets and mansions hidden behind high gates and large white walls are a far cry from the packed streets of South Africa’s townships, where beer-weary men slump on old sofas outside crumbling homes, waiting for state benefits as jobs are elusive, while “nyaope” a mix of heroin, rat poison, drain cleaner and drugs used to treat HIV/Aids claims many lives. Those crammed into sites on the outskirts of towns complain that they have not received their land back.
Hundreds of kilometres south in Orange Free State, space is not an issue. Vast farms mainly owned by Dutch descendants that arrived in the 17th Century, dot the hillsides, and people still fear attacks on white-owned farms, but also expect that the negotiations Mandela brokered in 1993 to win personal freedoms have not yet extended to the economy.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Dimbaza – a dumping ground for people deemed “surplus to requirements” in towns, and relocated outside by an apartheid government. The place was also home to more thanr 100 ex-Robben Island prisoners- where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 year incarceration- to live so that they could be watched.
A packed children’s cemetery outside town is testament to the poor rations under apartheid, while drugs are now the biggest killer of today’s kids.
Further into the Eastern Cape lies Qunu, Mandela’s boyhood village that is little more than a cluster of homes on a hillside where sheep outnumber people. About 20km along dirt roads lies the even smaller village of Mqhekewenzi, where members of Mandela’s adoptive royal family from the Thembu clan say his time with them gave him the ability to stare down an apartheid government, and who will be laying animal skins on his coffin to mark his greatness and aristocratic links.
All agree that a great man has passed, and hope that someday, someone will replace him to continue his long walk to freedom across South Africa.