Some worry Mandela's death would make nation vulnerable again

Some worry Mandela's death would make nation vulnerable again

JOHANNESBURG - South Africans united in mourning for Nelson Mandela on Friday, but while some celebrated his remarkable life with dance and song, others fretted that the anti-apartheid hero's death would make the nation vulnerable again to racial and social tensions.

As the country's 52 million people absorbed the news that their beloved former president had departed forever, many expressed shock at the passing of a man who was a global symbol of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.

South Africans heard from President Jacob Zuma late on Thursday that the statesman and Nobel Peace Prize laureate died peacefully at his Johannesburg home in the company of his family after a long illness.

Despite reassurances from public figures that Mandela's passing, while sorrowful, would not halt South Africa's advance away from its bitter apartheid past, some still expressed unease about the absence of a man famed as a peacemaker.

"It's not going to be good, hey! I think it's going to become a more racist country. People will turn on each other and chase foreigners away," said Sharon Qubeka, 28, a secretary from Tembisa township as she headed to work in Johannesburg.

"Mandela was the only one who kept things together," she said.

Flags flew at half mast as South Africa entered a period of mourning leading up to a planned state funeral for its first black president next week.

Trade was halted for five minutes on the Johannesburg stock exchange, Africa's largest bourse, out of respect.

But the mood was not all somber. Hundreds filled the streets around Mandela's home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, many singing songs of tribute and dancing.

The crowd included toddlers carrying flowers, domestic workers still in uniform and businessmen in suits.

Many attended church services, including another veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu. He said that like all South Africans he was "devastated" by Mandela's death.

"Let us give him the gift of a South Africa united, one," Tutu said, holding a mass in Cape Town's St George's Cathedral.

An avalanche of tributes continued to pour in for Mandela, who had been ailing for nearly a year with a recurring lung illness dating back to the 27 years he spent in apartheid jails, including the notorious Robben Island penal colony.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among world leaders who paid tributes to him as a moral giant and exemplary beacon.

The loss was also keenly felt across the African continent. "We are in trouble now, Africa. No one will fit Mandela's shoes," said Kenyan teacher Catherine Ochieng, 32.

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