Africa

Mandela - the face of South Africa

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Media captionDali Ndiza, 44, says Mandela memorabilia is popular with both the young and the old

Under apartheid, it was illegal to possess an image of Nelson Mandela, then in jail for leading the struggle to overthrow South Africa's white-minority government.

Following his death last week, his face can be seen everywhere across the country.

Companies are competing to have the biggest roadside advertising hoarding, while smaller posters have been attached to most lamp-posts.

A small army of vendors has sprung up selling Mandela T-shirts, rosettes, caps, badges, wristbands, headbands and even framed plastic pictures with two different images of his face, which alternate as you move your head to the side.

After Mr Mandela's death was announced just before midnight on Thursday, 5 December, Dali Ndiza, 44, was among the crowds who gathered outside Mr Mandela's former home in Vilakazi St, Soweto, which has been turned into a museum.

A mood of sadness lasted for about an hour, Mr Ndiza said, before turning to a celebration of Mr Mandela's inspirational life.

Mr Ndiza normally sells souvenirs at events organised by the African National Congress, Mr Mandela's party - but he now wants to keep his stall outside the Mandela family restaurant, just a few yards away from the famous address of 8115 Orlando West.

'Dankie tata'

Mr Ndiza still sells everything from lime-green sun hats to dresses and leather jackets with the ANC logo, but what his customers want at the moment is anything to do with the man who led the country to democracy.

"The foreign tourists want these Afro-shirts," he told the BBC, pointing to African-style, open-neck shirts in the ANC colours of gold, black and green, with a black and white print of Mr Mandela's face emblazoned on it.

He said young people prefer the T-shirts with a stylised, two-tone impression of his face and the phrase RIP Nelson Mandela 1918-2013, while older people prefer those with a similar image and the simple phrase: Dankie tata (Thank you father).

Mr Ndiza is just one of a host of people selling Mandela souvenirs on the street, as well as across the country.

About 20 metres (22 yards) down the road from his stall, I asked Maryann Njau what was selling well at the moment.

"Anything with Mandela," she replied instantly. "Especially the T-shirts."

"We have had to get in extra stock."

"This is the busiest period I have ever known," said Gouta Eugene in front of a line of vividly coloured T-shirts with the face of Nelson Mandela and another South African liberation hero, Steve Biko.

"I normally work on another stall but I have come here to help my cousin," he said.

Their best-selling items are normally caps and T-shirts with the name of Soweto, the country's most famous township, known around the world as being the heart of the resistance against apartheid.

But now it is all about Mr Mandela.

Some might accuse the traders of cashing in on a period of national mourning but Mr Eugene's cousin, Maropeng Letstasi, said that on the contrary, they have actually reduced prices to try and ensure that local people can afford to pay their own homage to the man widely hailed as the "Father of the Nation".

"Normally, we mostly sell to foreign tourists but since Mandela passed away, lots of South Africans have been coming, so we have brought our prices down from 150 rand ($15; £10) to 120 for a T-shirt," he said.

'Opposite of grand'

Unlike some who buy and sell ready-made T-shirts, he makes his own prints, in gold glitter.

Image caption Soweto caps are no longer the top sellers

"This is how we pay tribute to him. If we sell a T-shirt, we are helping to spread the spirit of Mandela."

There is a steady stream of potential customers, South African and foreign, from all racial groups, walking past as they head to the Mandela House museum.

Nelson Mandela had huge affection for his Vilakazi Street house, even though it did not have running water or electricity.

"It was the opposite of grand, but it was my first true home of my own and I was mightily proud," he wrote in his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom.

"A man is not a man until he has a house of his own."

Isaac Mawela had brought his three children and a nephew to show them this historic building.

His daughter had learnt about Mr Mandela and apartheid in school but was visibly excited to be going to the place where he used to live.

Another man, Mxolisi Sibaya, also thought he should use this occasion to educate his children about their country's past.

Although he lives in Pretoria, just an hour's drive away, he had never been to see for himself this historic site.

I was told that visitor numbers to the museum had increased by a factor of five or 10 in the past week.

Outside, there is a shrine of flowers, candles and other tributes.

Image caption South Africans from all backgrounds visit Mandela House
Image caption The Mawela family were excited to be visiting Mandela's former home
Image caption Mbali Coka and Tiisetso Ditshego felt closer to the anti-apartheid leader after visiting Mandela House

People pose to have their photo taken, making a clenched fist salute in front of the famous address.

Two of them were Tiisetso Ditshego and his fiancee, Mbali Coka, wearing matching Nelson Mandela T-shirts.

"The T-shirts and coming here bring us closer to him," said Mr Ditshego.

Again, this is their first visit to the museum.

Image caption Bafana Mampane has changed his hairstyle to emulate his hero

"We want to learn more about him and everything he did for us. He is our hero," he said.

"Also, he is being buried far away in Qunu and I did not have time to attend the events during the week."

One man, Bafana Mampane, 27, even said he had shaved a parting down the left-hand side of his head, to imitate the iconic image of Mr Mandela used in the global campaign for his release.

"I normally shave my head, but now I will let my hair grow, to look like Mandela."

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