Nelson Mandela remembered in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan's South African community is reacting to the death of their country's first black president, Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela is being remembered as a man of peace. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's South African community is reacting to the death of their country's first black president, Nelson Mandela.

Naas Janse van Rensburg moved to Saskatoon in 2012, from Pretoria. He recalled the impact Mandela had on his country.

"By example he led," Janse van Rensburg said. "Showing us how ... to interact with all cultures, and appreciating each other and seeing what is good."

He added Mandela was able to maintain peace in South Africa, even as reconciliation over the apartheid era was taking place.

"The manner in which he took leadership [was a great accomplishment]," Janse van Rensburg said. "In other words: reconciling two different cultures ... There was peace, I think, when he was president."

Lawrence Masilela said he hopes his children will learn and keep with them the lessons of Mandela's legacy.

Masilela, who is from Pretoria, recalls growing up during the apartheid years before Mandela was released from prison.

"We were not allowed to say his name because he was considered a terrorist then by the apartheid regime," Masilela told CBC News Thursday.

Years later, while studying in Texas, Masilela met Mandela during an official visit.

"We spoke to him, he spoke to us. He told us how much South Africa needed people that were outside of the country, ex-patriots," Masilela recalled. "He said, 'Get your education. Go back to South Africa and be of great value to South Africa when you're done schooling."

Masilela's wife - Masesi Masilela - said Mandela also implemented a number of social reforms, as president of South Africa.

"So at 22 I got my first job as a bank technician," she recalled. "And the only reason we had that is because with him having been the new president, and having the affirmative action, was to get black, especially females, into the banking sector."

Saskatoon Children's Choir's special tour

The impact of Mandela on South Africa was a major part of a 2011 trip to the country by 42 members of the Saskatoon Children's Choir.

Their tour took them to a number of historic sites, including Robben Island prison where Mandela was jailed for 18 of the 27 years he spent behind bars. They also visited a Soweto township where they met children who have been orphaned as a result of the country's HIV-AIDS pandemic.

The experience was featured in a CBC special series, Sing Africa! Click on this link to learn more about the choir's memorable journey.


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