Mazwi recalled how the former president, when he walked the village’s dirt roads in the 1990s, would hand him the equivalent of $10. Like many others in Qunu and the surrounding area, Mazwi hopes to attend the Sunday funeral, but he does not know if he will get inside.
“I’d like to see if his funeral will be as dignified as he was,” said Mazwi.
Rolihlahla Mandela attended primary school in Qunu, where the teacher Miss Mdingane, following the local custom to give all school children “Christian” names, assigned him the name Nelson. Now the village hosts a modern school named the Nelson Mandela No-Moscow Primary School, a reference to a Mandela relative, not a snub aimed at Russia.
The town also hosts a Nelson Mandela Museum, where a banner hung after his death quickly filled with tributes.
Mzingelwa, the church leader, spoke of Mandela’s generosity. In his younger years, the former president spread charity around the village. At Christmas he would visit homes and give toys to the underprivileged, said Mzingelwa. Some now fear life will deteriorate without Mandela alive.
In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” Mandela wrote that he believes a man should have a home in sight of where he was born, though that is not literally the case here. Mandela spent his childhood in Qunu but was born in Mvezo, about 10 kilometers (six miles) from Qunu.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison during white rule, took some of that experience with him to Qunu. The floor plan of the house, completed in 1993, is based on the house he lived in at the Victor Verster Prison where he spent his last 14 months of incarceration.
“People often commented on this,” Mandela wrote. “But the answer was very simple: the Victor Verster house was the first spacious and comfortable home I ever stayed in, and I liked it very much. I was familiar with its dimensions, so at Qunu I would not have to wander at night looking for the kitchen.”