Blog entries from: World » Alex Perry |

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December 15 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Sun Dec 15 2013, 08:29:36

When Nelson Mandela's long walk to freedom finally ended Sunday, it was at the end of a dirt road winding its way across a rolling green hill on his family farm in Qunu -- "that village," Mandela wrote, "where I spent some of the happiest years of my boyhood." About 450 guests, including family, friends, traditional tribal leaders and a select group of figures from politics, business and philanthropy, watched as South Africa's first black President was buried in bright sunshine next to three of his children, with a clear view of what Mandela described as "the open spaces, the simple beauties of nature, the clean line of the horizon." A state funeral, the strong military theme also served as a reminder of Mandela's revolutionary past. His coffin was carried to the graveside by a gun ...

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December 14 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Sat Dec 14 2013, 14:19:28

Brandfort, South Africa - In 1977, the apartheid authorities banished Nelson Mandela's wife Winnie to Brandfort, a small, remote town in South Africa's Afrikaner heartland. Worried by how she was keeping the African National Congress (ANC) alive while her husband was in jail, the white supremacist regime restricted her movements to a tiny three-roomed hut with no electricity, no running water and no indoor toilet in the black township on Brandfort's outskirts. Winnie's hut - actually half a hut - was #802. In #806 was Nora Nomafu. Now 71, I found Nora outside Winnie's old house on a recent visit, where she and three other old comrades were conducting a ceremony in remembrance of Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95. "We were not even allowed to speak to her," said ...

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December 13 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Fri Dec 13 2013, 20:25:50

The first time I visited Mthatha, 2009, parents were refusing to let their kids walk to school for fear they would be raped and virtually every lamp-post was plastered with flyers for same-day abortions. The second, 2012, as I drove in, a young beggar with filthy clothes and a dirty face knocked on my window when I stopped at a set of lights - to distract me so his two companions could open a rear door and rifle my bag. A few blocks later, when I pulled over for directions, the woman I asked initially told me to get out of town. "You shouldn't be out here alone," she said. "Tsotsis [gangsters] are everywhere." When Nelson Mandela's body is flown to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape Saturday ahead of his burial Sunday in the nearby village of Qunu, he will be returning to his home and to the ...

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December 12 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Thu Dec 12 2013, 16:14:18

Nelson Mandela, first President of a free South Africa, last of the great African liberators and an icon to all humanity, looks beautiful in death. He lies in a wooden casket with a glass cover over his face on the highest point in his nation's capital, his feet to the dawn, his head to the sunset. "It seems as if he is still alive," says Charlotte Madisha, 36. "It seems like he's just sleeping." Mandela's coffin is shielded from the sun by a giant white and wood open-sided box, hung in white, carpeted in red and lit with soft white lights. At each corner of the coffin are four stern South African sailors in navy whites. On each side is a line of slowly processing mourners. Today, the second day of Mandela's lying in state, it stretches out of South Africa's seat of government, the Union ...

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From World » Alex Perry | Thu Dec 12 2013, 03:00:07

The horizontal rain that has soaked Nelson Mandela's birthplace since his death had turned the road to a rockslide of mud and stones. Just behind the old grass-roof hut where he was born, the car slid, crunched on the ground, and one of its wheels started making a hit-pitched screech. There were two modest mud-walled huts, painted pink with tin roofs and a few pickups sitting on bricks outside. I pulled up, hurried over in the rain, stepped through an open door and found myself in Mvezo's small village shop. A large woman in a headscarf stood behind the counter in front of shelves stacked with soap, candles, paraffin and beer. She greeted me in Xhosa: "Molo!" Three other women were sitting on a bench sipping beer. A fourth, her face a picture of a hard and very long life, sat on the floor, ...

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December 10 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Tue Dec 10 2013, 12:11:29

The days since Nelson Mandela's death have been marked in South Africa with an undefined doubt, a rumor of ambivalence, a whisper of disenchantment. Away from the crowds of hundreds lighting candles outside his home, away from the thousands of mourners who laid flowers in front of his statues, events to commemorate the passing of South Africa's first black President have been poorly attended and the myriad broadcasts of remembrances of him often seemed to be going unheard. On Tuesday, as more than 100 world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe gathered for a memorial at a soccer stadium on the edge of Soweto, South Africa's unease moved closer into focus. A crowd of tens of ...

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From World » Alex Perry | Tue Dec 10 2013, 03:00:19

Of all the remarkable scenes prompted by the death of Nelson Mandela, one of the most astonishing will happen inside the VIP section at his memorial service Tuesday and his funeral Sunday. The full list of foreign heads of states and royalty released by the South African government runs to 84 countries -- a literal A to Z of the world -- as well as several international organizations. For the host, South Africa, the guest list also throws up some intriguing, and some awkward, seating possibilities for the main memorial on Dec. 10. How will Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's experience of American pressure compare with that of Afghan President Hamid Karzai? Maybe they could open the discussion to a round table with U.S. President Barack Obama, and former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill ...

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December 8 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Sun Dec 8 2013, 16:11:14

Disasters tend to be loud and bloody, but success is often quiet -- the absence of fighting, the want of an uproar, a lack of fuss. On Sunday, as South Africa came together in a national day of remembrance of Nelson Mandela, his legacy was manifest in the orderly assembly of every color in Africa at a thousand churches, mosques, synagogues and halls. At St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town -- where Desmond Tutu once led his congregation in protest against apartheid and blacks staged hunger strikes against their eviction from the city, and a short walk from where Mandela vowed to fight on for the ideal of equality in his first speech as a free man after 27 years in jail -- the "rainbow nation" came together in the pews. A blond girl with a giant rose tattoo on both her shoulders prayed ...

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December 7 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Sat Dec 7 2013, 15:25:30

On the edge of the village of Mvezo in South Africa's Eastern Cape, on the spur of a hill looking out over a bend in the Mbashe River, there used to be a simple open-sided museum with four plaques inscribed with passages. One was about growing up inspired by the elders' war stories. Another about how "1,000 slights, 1,000 indignities and 1,000 unremembered moments" had produced a slow awakening of rebellious anger in the author. The third was about being prepared to die for the idea of racial equality. The fourth was about how the road to freedom is long. When I visited Nelson Mandela's birthplace in 2009, it was a place of simple beauty that inspired contemplation and reflection of an extraordinary, exemplary life. Today, it is a wreck. The tin roof hangs loose and some of the ...

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December 6 2013

From World » Alex Perry | Fri Dec 6 2013, 13:25:28

Desmond Tutu once told me he believed prison was the making of Nelson Mandela. "I often surprise people when I say this," he said. "Suffering can lead to bitterness. But suffering is also the infallible test of the openness of a leader, of their selflessness." When Mandela had gone to jail, he had been "one of the most angry," said Tutu. "The suffering of those 27 years helped to purify him and grow the magnanimity that would become his hallmark." Jail helped Mandela learn how to make enemies into friends, said Tutu. It also gave him an unassailable credibility. "When you speak of forgiveness, 27 years in prison sets you up very nicely," he said. As free South Africa remembered its founding father Friday after his death at 95 the night before, many of the most eloquent commemorations also ...

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