We know it's been a while, but enough people have asked us what it was like here when Mandela died, so we figured we share our rather limited insight. There is literally no way to understate the effect of Mandela's death on South Africans, black or white. Imagine (you USA natives) if George Washington had died in your lifetime (and didn't own slaves but had rather freed them).
Our local friends' reactions were quite varied, but all sort of inspiring. Almost everybody had a story about meeting Mandela in school or at work. Our friend Kelvin, bartender at the campus pub, took some of his quite limited annual vacation time and hopped a taxi with friends to ride the 1000km (one way) to see Mandela's funeral in Qunu. Our buddy Andrew took his two little kids down to Nelson Mandela's house so they could put flowers on a makeshift street shrine that had developed, and at Andrew's birthday party we lit off hot air balloons in honor of Madiba's life.
It was Andrew that suggested we go down to Mandela's house and see the scene in the street. It's hard to believe in these days of security threats that you could still get right up to Mandela's (albeit heavily fortified) wall, but we were able to drive easily into his neighborhood, park nearby, and walk past his house. These pictures are from that experience.
This street shrine is backed by a rickety chain-link fence, and Mandela's wall is the yellow feature in the background.
Literally thousands of bouquets, handwritten signs, and candles from people of all walks of life and all nationalities had appeared by this third day after Mandela's passing.
Some of the tributees were somewhat surprising.
The crowd outside was incredibly peaceful and the scene was truly moving, even for us outsiders.
Americans don't generally know this, but the Communist Party was (and still is) well tied to the ANC political party that Mandela was the head of. They had a robust presence outside his house, running this communist flag to and fro on regular intervals.
With the peaceful crowds, the enormous police presence resorted to doing what it does best.
The shrine stretched for about half a block around the main intersection on Mandela's street.
South African media and international media had been well set up for days, even months before Mandela's passing (with his hospitalization we all knew it was coming), and had built something of a tent city adjacent to their vans.
Ever the entrepreneurs, South African small businessmen weren't far behind the media.
This is an ANC rally car.
In parks along the way to Madiba's house, small wreaths and other memorials had been set up, although it wasn't clear if they were sponsored by the government or private enterprise.
Finally, this video (if it works) shows the almost non-stop singing of old political songs by ANC party members in the street outside.
Madiba's memorial service got some embarrassing international press, given the selfies, the fake sign language guy, the traffic, etc., but Kelsey listened to the whole thing on local radio and said it was moving, powerful, and Obama's speech made her proud to be an American.