Cape Town - Following a week of being turned into a military zone in preparation for Nelson Mandela’s funeral, life in Qunu slowly returned to normal on Monday as hundreds of soldiers and several military vehicles left the village.
By 4pm, there were only about four military Nyalas and one bakkie outside Mandela’s home.
Residents also started getting on with their lives. In Xhosa tradition, when someone dies, people stop performing certain chores such as working their gardens and fields. It is customary for the community to be as silent as possible, speaking softly during the mourning period as a sign of respect to the deceased.
In Qunu, women tended gardens while others started making traditional beer in preparation of initiation ceremonies to be held at the weekend.
Nosithile Godlongwana, 67, said that while villagers had to find a way of moving on after the Mandela’s funeral, they were anxious to see if his legacy would be taken forward.
Last year, she became the first social grant recipient in the village to have a flush toilet after it was built during the 67 minutes to honour Mandela on his birthday.
“We were honoured to have a leader of his stature coming from our village, but we are also anxious that we might be forgotten. What if the leaders were doing things for us because they feared Mandela… are they not going to dump us now? I’m really scared… I don’t know if Qunu will still matter in the next few years.”
But in Mvezo, Mandela’s birthplace, villagers were still in deep mourning, staying away from any activity.
Apart from a handful of villagers outside their homes, the mood was characterised by an eerie quiet.
Nowesoni Phmethetha Gwaxuba said the village was feeling a deep sense of loss: “Tata had put our village in the map. Most of us are illiterate and poor here, but we have roads, schools, electricity and fenced gardens because of him.”
Veliswa Ndleleni was meant to paint her house this week, but has put it on hold: “The weather is perfect for painting this week, but I won’t do it… it would be a disgrace to do that during this period.”