South Africans living in New Zealand react to the passing of a legend – Nelson Mandela

Rebecca Quilliam

Senior reporter, APNZ News

nelson-mandela4Dec 6 _ South Africans living in New Zealand have spoken about the peace Nelson Mandela brought to their country, and their concern that extreme political groups may unhinge the good work that has been done.

Auckland recruiter Andrew Brownlee once tutored Mandela’s grandson at a tertiary college he ran in South Africa. Mandela spoke at the school’s graduation: “Probably the most inspirational thing that I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to, he spoke from the heart for about an hour and a half.” Mr Brownlee said. He spoke about how he studied in prison, and that students should aspire to further studies so they could develop themselves and develop South Africa. Mandela had kept South Africa peaceful and there was now trepidation as to whether that “sense of calmness” would remain, Mr Brownlee said. “There’s still a lot of tension in the country, but it seems a little calmer _ the country has a long way to go, but it’s come a long way.”

Cathy Mellett, who runs the website, said the news of Mandela’s death gave her “goosebumps”. “It’s absolutely a tragedy. I think he almost was, in terms of the South African environment, the Mahatma Gandhi of today. “He really brought that country together. ”Mandela was a “remarkable man” in the way he unified the country, she said. “He was a phenomenal man.”

Ms Mellett’s husband Ian said there had been conjecture that once Mandela died, some of the more “radical” elements in the country could use it as an opportunity to spouse their views. `And then there are others who hope the legacy that he’s left behind, in terms of that conciliatory, more peaceful approach to democratic change, that that legacy would live on.”

Sheralee Clarke worked as a press photographer in Durban for 29 years and covered many key moments in Mandela’s life, including his release from prison.“It was history and I was there, it was an amazing time _ I was pretty proud of that.” Ms Clarke now works in Auckland putting together the South African magazine. She became tearful when speaking about the former president.“We all just loved him,” she said. “He’s just a great man, he had a presence and he was humble and he mixed with everybody.” There will be different reactions to Mandela’s death from South Africans living here, she said.“People have had to leave because of what happened in South Africa … and they will say he was to blame.”

South African High Commissioner Zodwa Lallie said condolence books would be made available in Auckland and Wellington from Monday, and plans were underway for a memorial service in Wellington.

Details of the service were expected to be announced next week.

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