A Long Wait for a Last Moment With Mandela
A day after the world’s leaders, celebrities and royalty gathered in a stadium to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela in a pomp-filled ceremony, Wednesday was the people’s turn. They came by the thousands, black and white, frail and spry, from gated golf estates and tin-shack squatter camps, waiting to pay their final respects to the last and most beloved of a generation of leaders who liberated South Africa from apartheid.
The lines, which snaked through the capital for miles, were reminiscent of the endless queues that South Africans endured in 1994 to vote for Mr. Mandela’s African National Congress in the nation’s first fully democratic elections. At the time, people stood in lines, some miles long, to cast their ballots at the beginning of a hopeful new era. Now, they lined up to bid farewell, not just to a man, but for many, to that early period of optimism he represented.
“For our freedom he spent 27 years in prison,” Ms. Mashele said six hours into her sun-blasted wait to see the body of Mr. Mandela. “He gave me my freedom. I can wait a little longer.”