AWAKENING to a country without its revered figurehead, some South Africans voiced fears his death could leave their nation vulnerable again to the racial and social tensions that he did so much to pacify.
Despite reassurances from leaders that Mandela’s passing, while sorrowful, would not halt South Africa’s move away from its bitter apartheid past, some still expressed a sense of unease.
“It’s not going to be good. I think it’s going to become a more racist country. People will turn on each other and chase foreigners away,” Sharon Qubeka, 28, a secretary from Tembisa township, said as she headed to work in Johannesburg.
“Mandela was the only one who kept things together.”
For South Africa, the loss of Mandela comes at a time when the nation has been experiencing bloody labour unrest, growing protests against poor services, poverty, crime and unemployment and corruption scandals tainting president Jacob Zuma’s rule.
Many saw today’s South Africa still distant from being the “Rainbow Nation” ideal of social peace and shared prosperity that Mandela had proclaimed in 1990.
“I feel like I lost my father,” Joseph Nkosi, 36, a security guard from Alexandra township in Johannesburg, said.
Referring to Mandela by his clan name, he added: “Now, without Madiba, I feel like I don’t have a chance. The rich will get richer and simply forget about us.”