French President Pays ‘Very Emotional’ Visit to Mandela’s Old Soweto Home

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Nelson Mandela’s Soweto Home
Photo:Rob Lloyd

All Africa

French President François Hollande described as “very emotional” a visit on Tuesday to the small Soweto house where South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela lived before his 27-year-imprisonment.

“Coming to this house you get the feeling of a fighter, a combatant, a militant who lived here among his own,” said Hollande after spending time at the little brick building, which is now a national monument.

Accompanied by South African President Jacob Zuma, Hollande spent the morning in the formerly blacks-only area southwest of Johannesburg, which was the centre of resistance against the white supremacist apartheid regime.

They also visited a memorial to Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old schoolboy shot dead by police in 1976 when school children protested against teaching in Afrikaans, the language of Dutch descendants. Dozens were killed by police during the protest.

“It is very moving to come to Soweto, where barely 40 years ago children died defending their freedom, their dignity,” said Hollande on the second day of a state visit to South Africa.

“All this isn’t so long ago,” he said, adding that “the battle for human dignity, for equality, for respect and tolerance … these battles live on even long after the heroes who waged them.”

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of Mandela being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with then-president FW de Klerk for negotiating an end to apartheid.

The ailing 95-year-old receives few visitors these days besides close relatives.

Discharged from hospital after a three-month stint, he is now being treated at his Johannesburg home.