By Ntandoyenkosi Ncube JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Former president Nelson Mandela' s next door neighbors in Soweto on Friday said the best way for South Africa to mourn Mandela's death is for the nation to keep his legacy of "unity and love."
Florence Mabhena, who lived next to Mandela's Vilakazi Street house since the 1960s, said Mandela is a true example of love. Mandela not only loved his neighbors but all South Africans regardless of their races, Mabhena said.
"From now we must continue to love one another," the grandmother in her late 70s told Xinhua in tears. "We must forget the past. Lets take the past as the past, this is what Tata Mandela thought us," she added.
"South Africa must stop saying I hate this person and that person. We must learn to love as Mandela loved us all,"Mabhena said, while calling on all South Africans, black and white, not to be distracted "from unity that Mandela taught us."
Mandela was South Africa's first democratically elected president, serving from 1994 to 1999. Before being elected, he was imprisoned for 27 years.
Upon his release Mandela strived hard for reconciliation in South Africa. His political acumen united a country once dominated with racial and tribal enmity.
"When we saw him going and coming from work we all ran to the street raising our hands and thumbs shouting Africa, Africa, long live Africa. He greeted everybody in the street," another neighbor Ana Maila said.
"We morn the death of Tata (father) by extending love to a person next to you. Mandela was a good example of unity and love in South Africa. I urge all South Africans to keep this legacy," Maila said.
House No. 8115 was the place where Mandela lived and strategized the struggle to bring freedom to South Africans of all races.
The house has been turned into a national museum, with various memorabilia, arts and crafts, honorary doctorates conferred on Mandela and picture collections of the Mandela family.
Mandela and his family lived at this house from 1946 to the 1990s, with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, and second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
After Mandela's death, people from all walks of life thronged to the house to show their respect.
"We are here because we love him," Soweto's Elias Motsoaledi Village community leader Lucky Ngobeni told Xinhua. "We are here because he is our father, our leader and our hero," 24-year-old Jomo Maduna from nearby Zola township added. "We are all saddened by this news. This is the death of the son of Soweto,"said Andisiwe Dlomo, 56.
Soweto, an acronym for South-Western Townships, is the largest black residential area in South Africa and a product of the apartheid government's policy of segregation.
Mandela himself didn't spend much time at this house. His growing role in the anti-apartheid struggle drove him underground before his arrest in 1962.
Upon his release from Robben Island in 1990, Mandela moved back to the house for 11 days before moving to Houghton, Johannesburg where he died on Thursday.
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