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Soweto still believes in Mandela's dream

In 19 years, Soweto has morphed from a poverty ridden township into a pretty ordinary suburban slice of South Africa.
Last modified: 28 Jun 2013 20:16

Vilakazi street's most famous former resident may be in a critical condition in hospital, but like President Jacob Zuma urged this week, people are going about their normal routines.

A young boy wearing his school uniform on top and pyjama bottoms carries washing up liquid home to his mum before school, and an elderly man whistles as he rides his bicycle past.

Both look bemused at the cameramen and reporters parked on the side walk. It's an odd scene of story-hardened journalists and, well, just people living their lives.

Although it's very culturally insensitive to talk about the possibility or probability of someone's death, everyone is happy to tell me what they love about Mandela.

I got talking to an Afrikaner woman called Adina who'd come to visit Mandela House. She told me about how she was on a plane when the flight attendant announced that Mandela had been released from prison.

She remembers the debate between her (all white) travel companions and their genuine fear and concern that the anti-apartheid leader would emerge 'carrying a spear'.

She said that as it dawned on her during his first days of freedom that it was reconciliation in his heart and in his mind, there was a huge sense of relief in her family.

Amidst the hurt at peoples' realisation that they will have to say goodbye there is also immense pride and hope.

A young man told me that he'd been to business school and was an entrepreneur, adding he'd looked around the political landscape and decided to support the ANC for all it's done for South Africa. He wasn't looking into the party's past but into it, and his country's future.

"Look around you" he said - "Soweto has changed so much, there are tourists here like it's the Eiffel Tower", an exaggeration of course, but he had a point.

In 19 years, Soweto has morphed from a poverty ridden township into a pretty ordinary suburban slice of South Africa.

There are wealthy people in Soweto and poor - yes it still has a way to go, but everyone I've met on Vilakazi street today believes in the dream.

Winnie thanks media

Winnie Madikizele-Mandela clutched a friends hand and was teary eyed as she faced the world's media in front of the house in Soweto that she shared with Nelson Mandela - where their children were raised when they were young.

She said 'this is where it all began' and that she wanted to thank the media for their responsible reporting.

This was at odds with comments made by Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe (by his first wife Evelyn) who referred to the international media as having elements of racism "It is like, truly, vultures waiting when the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there, you know, for the last carcasses. That is the image that we have as a family."

But Winnie said she was the senior family member - it was a stamp of authority from a woman who has enthralled South Africans, and is held dear as the mother of the nation.

She said Mandela had improved, but was still very ill. She said it did hurt, particularly the grandchildren to hear their Tata referred to in the past tense and to read headlines like 'It's time the family let him go'.

She said it was difficult for them to understand the seeming anticipation of the inevitable - the excitement. But that on the whole the media had acted responsibly.

It was interesting someone so involved in such private events would take the time to express gratitude to the media, but I think it left everyone impressed and with a heightened awareness of the feelings of those who have the most to lose.