With Mandela Gone, How Will South Africa Go On? Nelson Mandela was buried Sunday in his ancestral village. The leader's death has some South Africans worried about how the country, and the African National Congress, will move forward without him. For more, host Michel Martin speaks to NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

With Mandela Gone, How Will South Africa Go On?

With Mandela Gone, How Will South Africa Go On?

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Nelson Mandela was buried Sunday in his ancestral village. The leader's death has some South Africans worried about how the country, and the African National Congress, will move forward without him. For more, host Michel Martin speaks to NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, if you're shopping for Christmas gifts this week, you might have recent stories about racial profiling in your mind. We'll talk about what you should do if you think you are a target or you see someone else who is.

But first, we go to South Africa where Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, was laid to rest yesterday in his childhood village Qunu. The interment capped more than a week of ceremonies celebrating the life of the legendary human rights leader turned statesman. The funeral was attended by political leaders and celebrities from around the world, but it also gave his family and friends a chance to say their final goodbye. Here's a clip of Mandela's devoted prison mate, Ahmed Kathrada.


AHMED KATHRADA: Farewell, my dear brother, my mentor, my leader. My life is in a void, and I don't know who to turn to.

MARTIN: We wanted to hear more about these important ceremonies, so we called NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Johannesburg. And we also wanted to know how South Africa will likely move forward without this legendary leader. And Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is with us now from Johannesburg. Welcome back. Thank you so much for joining us, Ofeibea.


MARTIN: So how was Mandela remembered over the weekend by family and friends? We heard just a bit of Ahmed Kathrada's moving tribute. What else did you hear?

QUIST-ARCTON: I don't think there was a dry eye in Qunu hearing Ahmed Kathrada, who is one of only three who was sent to Robben Island, still alive. I mean, this is a generation passing, and he encapsulated that. There were many, many tears, but, you know, there were also smiles. For example, Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Nandi, she spoke for the family. And she said, yes, he was a strict grandfather, but he prepared them to be better people in their lives with or without him. You know, he was a great storyteller. She said he had a great sense of humor. And that was a another side of the grandfather that most people didn't know. She said he was incredibly mischievous. And he loved children, and he loved them.

MARTIN: You're mentioning how this was living history. We heard from Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete talking about Mandela's secret journey across Africa in 1962. And his first stop was in Tanzania. Let me just play a short clip of that.


PRESIDENT JAKAYA KIKWETE: Comrades and friends, Madiba's trip to Dar es Salaam was to change the fortunes of the ANC. After being banned by the apartheid regime here in South Africa, the ANC found a new home in Tanzania from where it operated...


KIKWETE: ...Organized, spearheaded and prosecuted the struggle.

MARTIN: You know, we heard that applause when the ANC was mentioned in these remarks. And the ANC is of course now the ruling party, which it has been since 1994. What does this moment in history kind of foretell about the future of the party?

QUIST-ARCTON: Sunday was Africa's day. It was the African leaders who really sort of knitted together the history of South Africa and its neighbors and how they had helped the ANC and its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe - Spear of the Nation - defeat apartheid. The ANC then, of course, was a struggle movement. It was a liberation movement, but it has had to transform itself into a governing party. And I think even almost 20 years down the road since - after Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first democratically elected and first black president, the ANC often refers to itself still as the movement.

But it is a political party, and it is governing. Many people, of course, support the ANC. It has had landslide victories in the elections since 1994, but less in the last election. And we've got elections coming up in six months and many people questioning, is the ANC delivering on its promise of a better life for all South Africans? There is an elite black and white, which is immensely rich. But the mass of South Africans remain - and this is of course mainly black South Africans - remain hugely poor. So with poverty, youth unemployment, corruption and President Zuma himself is often - fingers are often pointed at him to say, hey, you are not leading by example. The vision of Nelson Mandela and that incredible generation of freedom fighters who brought us liberation, you have got follow their vision. You're not doing it.

MARTIN: I think a number of people noted that South Africa's current president, Jacob Zuma, was booed at the memorial service last Tuesday. We had not had a chance to speak yet about that. Why is that? And does that foretell problems at the elections this spring?

QUIST-ARCTON: You know, there's a huge debate going around in South Africa. Was the booing disrespectful? Not to president Jacob Zuma because obviously this is a democracy now, but was the memorial service for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - Madiba, as they call him by his clan name - was that the right forum for those who are opposed to Jacob Zuma to boo so loudly? So he's got a tough, tough challenge ahead. Very soon, they will be campaigning for elections.

But people say, how come $20 million was spent on upgrading, apparently, the security at his own homestead in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal where he comes from? Many questions are being asked. Why is it that Jacob Zuma always seems to be in trouble? And it's not just amongst his opponents in the opposition or those who've broken away from the ANC - the Economic Freedom Fighters of that maverick former ANC youth leader Julius Malema - but it's people within his own party.

MARTIN: Do you feel from the kinds of conversations that are now being had and brought into the open in the wake of Mandela's death - do you feel that his death itself will somehow affect people's thoughts about - as they go to elections and how they think about the future of the country?

QUIST-ARCTON: Does that mean, Michel, will the ANC lose the election? No. The ANC is still the monolith here. It is still the party that so many South Africans - and of course it's a black majority country - feels gave them freedom and liberation. But will it be with the sort of percentages that the ANC has had in the past - the landslide victories? I don't think so.

And I think there's going to be more pressure on Jacob Zuma and the ANC party, all the factions, to deliver on what South Africans need - a better life, jobs, houses, schools, clinics. That is what the people want. They don't want people moving around in expensive cars living a good life, whilst the masses are still poor.

MARTIN: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is NPR's Africa correspondent. She was with us from Johannesburg, South Africa. Ofeibea, thank you so much for speaking with us once again.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Nelson Mandela, rest in peace.

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