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Nelson Mandela

Qunu and Nelson Mandela's legacy

The exhumed remains of three of Nelson Mandela's children have been reburied. It is the latest twist in a macabre drama which is being played out as the 94-year-old anti apartheid icon lies ill in hospital.

This correspondent from Germany was really taken aback. The rest of the world may be anxiously following the fate of an ailing Nelson Mandela, but 19-year-old Pretty just shrugs her shoulders."I didn't know that he was in hospital. How is he, then? "she said. Pretty wasn't speaking in some place far removed from South Africa, but in Mvezo, Mandela's birthplace in impoverished Eastern Cape province.

Dispute over the family grave

An attempt to meet and talk to Mandla Mandela failed, partly because of a high steel gate at the entrance to his residence - and broad-shouldered guards.

Road leading Mandela's birth place in Qunu
Photo: DW/Ludger Schadomsky

The road to that leads to Mandela's rural homestead is kept in a good state of repair

39-year-old Mandla Mandela is Nelson Mandela's oldest grandson and chief of Mvezo. His property is well-appointed and has its own private road.

Mandla is the official spokesman of the Mandela family, but he is now at odds with the entire clan. Without consulting them, he transferred the earthly remains of three of Mandela's children from Qunu, Mandela's rural homestead, to Mvezo.

A court has ruled that they be exhumed and transferred back again to the family grave in Qunu. This is the place where Nelson Mandela wishes to be buried.

Public disputes are uncommon in this rural, very traditional region. Local chiefs wield enormous authority and traditional healers commonly known as sangomas, regularly call on their ancestors for divine intervention.

“Death should only be discussed among family members, not in public,” said Luthando Mzizi. The 43-year old came to the Mandela Museum in Qunu out of respect for “Tata” or father, a reference to Nelson Mandela.

Mandela museum in Qunu

After the fall of apartheid in 1994, Luthando Mzizi founded his own business, which now employs 50 people and is listed on the South African stock exhange.

"I can only thank Mandela for this, he freed us blacks and has given us such opportunities," he said.

"For that reason I am here today at his museum,” Mzizi added. The businessman said he had benefitted from the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) program.

A black South African who has been empowered economicallysince 1994 
Photo: DW/Ludger Schadomsky

The lives of many black South Africans were transformed by the BEE program

The aim of the program is to rectify the discrimination endured by blacks and the ensuing economic disadvantages they suffered. Now, white South Africans feel they are at a disadvantage.

Nevertheless, white South Africans also visit the Mandela museum. Lisa Copeland made the long journey from Cape Town with her three children. Her daughter six-year-old Olivia explained somewhat excitedly that at her age Mandela was tending animals.

"I do hope he gets better," said Lisa. "I wanted my children to be able to tell their children that they once visited Madiba's native village while he was still alive," she added.

A 30-minute walk away from the museum is the rock slide, where Mandela as a child sped down feet first to the valley floor. It is a very slippery slope.

A white South African and her daughter visit the Mandela Museum
Copyright: DW/Ludger Schadomsky

A white South African mother and her daughter visit the Mandela museum

Youth unemplyoment

In this neighborhood, shepherds put out their goats out to graze on the rolling hills, as they must have done in the 1920s when Mandela was child. "It was a happy childhood," he wrote in his autobiography.

Because of family connections, he enjoyed privileges that young people in Qunu can only dream of today.

Three young men in Mandela's birth place Qunu
Photo: DW/Ludger Schadomsky

Youth unemplyoment in a big problem South Africa and Qunu's youth also face a challenging future

Imonti Mdingane, Siphelo Mabi and Asanda Gqosha are unemployed. Their eyes are red, tell-tale signs of heavy consumption of dagga (cannabis).

"Madiba must not die, we all love him here. He must come back and give us jobs," said Imonti.

Siphelo finished school in 2002 and since then he has only had temporary jobs. He asks visitors whether they would like to buy some dagga with a hope of making some money, but more often than not they turn him down.

DW.DE