12 Dec 2013

The road to Qunu: ‘living the legacy of Nelson Mandela’

As Channel 4 News documents #TheRoadToQunu, travelling across South Africa as the country says goodbye to Nelson Mandela, Inigo Gilmore reports on the people he encounters.

At first glance it seemed little has changed in the free state town of Warden in the 20 years since Nelson Mandela was elected president. But scratch a little deeper and another picture emerges.

From the road, just beyond a glistening pond shrouded by weeping willows, a church steeple loomed over a patch of houses with well tended lawns.

Glance to the one side across the hill and the unmistakable vista of row upon row of matchbox township houses, fringed by decrepit tin shacks.

There are thousands of small dorps (towns) like this across the vast expanse of South Africa. Many carry the image of lingering division and of separation.

In the centre of the town white families live much as they have done in some of the better homes, while their black compatriots, for the most part, still live in the shabby townships.

Read: The road to Qunu: a journey to Mandela's resting place

We stopped to talk to an Afrikaner family who were doing renovations on a spacious home they had bought 20 years ago. They spanned three generations and had mixed views about how life had changed.

The grandfather said that there was now more mixing with local black populations but admitted that conversations often happened through the fence because he was wary about letting young black men inside his property.

Insisting he held no racial prejudice, the old man, propping himself up on a wooden cane, said Mandela had reassured them and wished he had been twenty years younger.

“Now there is too much corruption,” he said.

The general sentiment was that Mandela was a man of noble intentions but they were uneasy about what might come next.

As we chatted a bus load of ANC supporters trundled by. The family gazed warily from their perimeter fence as we stopped to talk with then.

They climbed down from the bus and broke into song as they danced in shirts emblazoned with Mandela’s face. It turned out that we’re also heading to Pretoria to see Mandela lying in state.

They were from the local township Zenzeleni, across the hills, and as we travelled with them in the bus, rattling along a rutted road, they spoke passionately about how Nelson Mandela had inspired them.

“I want to see Mandela lying in state in Pretoria so I can tell my grandchildren about that moment and tell them about him,” one man said as people around waved Mandela and ANC flags out of the windows.

Once at the township the singing and dancing continued; “we are living the legacy of Nelson Mandela,” a woman said, to cheers.

She explained how they were still pushing for reconstruction, including the building of new homes, education for the youth and reconciliation with the local white populations. “We have good relations here,” she insisted.

Around the corner we stopped at the shack of a woman who lived in the shabby structure with her four young children. It turned out that Paulina Moloi, the local sangoma (traditional healer) had lived in end shack for 17 years.

During that time she had been on a list to receive a house, under a programme first started by Mandela. “We have to be patient,” she said, with a sigh. “Mandela was a powerful man. I hope Zuma can fill his shoes. But I’m not sure.”

Follow the trip on Twitter #TheRoadtoQunu