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South Africans in T&T praise father of the nation: We’re more of a rainbow nation now
South Africans living and working in T&T are mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela and are praising him for ending the former white racist apartheid regime. They say thanks to Mandela, the “now generation” of South Africans mix freely with each other and there is no pronounced segregation as under apartheid rule. The T&T Guardian spoke to several members of the Association of South Africans of T&T, a large number of whom are white.
Margaretha de Vos, a white, expressing her emotions at Mandela’s passing, said, “I think words cannot describe the hollowness in the hearts of every South African. He was the father of our nation.” De Vos, like most of her fellow South Africans in T&T, said she was still very young when Mandela became South Africa’s first black president, but had witnessed some segregation under apartheid. “When I finished school, the first set of black students had started to enter public school,” she said.
“We are definitely more of a rainbow nation now. It doesn’t matter whether you are white or black. We stand together as a country. It (the unity) was one thing Mandela achieved.” De Vos came here three years ago and works as an optometrist. Mark De Sousa, another white South African living in T&T, said of Mandela’s death: “It’s very emotional. We knew he was ill but it’s still sad to have him go. He was the father of our nation.”
De Sousa said he would not say segregation had completely ended in South Africa but the way blacks and whites used to look at each other had been abolished among the younger generation. Lebo Mphahlele, a black South African, is a member of the association and was sad he was so far away from home. He, too, said there was true reconciliation among the races in South Africa.
“When you go to the stadium, you see people of all colours, whites, blacks, Indians. Although history would have run its course, this is so largely because Mandela and others fought for it.” Marese Kevser, a white South African, describing the passing of Mandela, said it was “quite a sad day. I wish I was in South Africa at the moment.”
Kevser remembered when Mandela sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to her and other children in the gardens of the presidential grounds in the first year he was president. “I was eight years old at the time. He was a phenomenal man.” Kevser said she remembered a part of apartheid but the country had changed a lot. “I don’t think there’s a white person in South Africa who criticises Mandela,” she added. Tegwen Kimber, also a white South African, echoed her friends.
“I think I was about six when he became president. I remember standing in a line with my aunt, who was going to vote. “It’s just a shock he’s not around any more. We are grateful for what he did for our country. He brought equality into South Africa. Back in those days, you wouldn’t find blacks and whites mingling. Now they are friends.”
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