Bay area South Africans react to loss of Nelson Mandela

10:02 PM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- There's sadness and celebration in the Tampa Bay area as people think of the life and legacy of South African leader Nelson Mandela. He passed away Thursday night at the age of 95. 

Claude Kershaw and his girlfriend Penny Viljoen say Mandela's incredible sacrifice and commitment to peace lives on.

The two moved to the Bay area last year but were born and raised in South Africa. Kershaw says, "To do what he did and have a peaceful transition from one government to the next in my opinion is beyond miraculous - that it was a non violent transition."

The couple admit they learned a lot while they were growing up about the man who led the struggle against apartheid and would later became the country's first black president. They were born one year after the leader was released from prison where he served a 27 year sentence. 

Kershaw says, "It's actually unimaginable to think that he had the resolve after 30 years to still strive for the same ideals that he did at the time that he was incarcerated. I could not imagine myself coming out of prison and not being bitter and resentful at that time. I think that is probably the reason that makes Mandela so special."

Kershaw says he's not surprised at the images of people gathering outside Mandela's Johannesburg home, dancing and singing to celebrate Mandela's life. Because of him, they are free. Kershaw says, "It's impossible to imagine life as a South Africaner without the influence of Mandela in every day life."

He adds that while his homeland has come a long way, there is still work to do. Kershaw says, "There is still a large disparity in terms of economics in the country and at the moment it's changing but there's still a long way to go."

 

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