Stunned South Africa falls silent at Mandela's passing

Thu Dec 5, 2013 8:20pm EST
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By Xola Potelwa and Tiisetso Motsoeneng

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The music decks and end-of-year office parties fell silent across South Africa on Thursday when President Jacob Zuma delivered the news nobody wanted to hear: Beloved anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela had died.

From sweaty nightclubs in the sprawling township of Soweto to the heart of Johannesburg's Sandton financial district, DJs hit the pause button as party-goers stood in stunned silence to listen to Zuma's nationally televised address.

For most, the passing of South Africa's first black president was an unforgettable moment in history.

"As soon as we saw Zuma on TV, the music stopped and everyone rushed to watch the TV, to listen to what was happening," said 19-year-old school leaver Lesego Tsimo outside a Soweto nightclub.

"People got emotional, some cried, and everyone started talking about Mandela," he added. "I feel very sad. I feel overwhelmed with emotion. He has done so much for us."

Non-South Africans paid tribute to the 95-year-old for bringing the continent's biggest and most sophisticated economy out of decades of apartheid isolation.

"I can speak next to you now because of Nelson Mandela. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be standing here in South Africa now speaking to you," said 31-year-old Congolese businessman Papi Josias, who has been in South Africa for eight years.

"He united many nations. I came to South Africa because Mandela made peace."   Continued...

Boys look at a poster of former South African President Nelson Mandela as they gather outside Mandela's house after news of his death in Houghton, December 6, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko