Qunu wishes Mandela well

EWN toured Qunu and surrounding areas where Madiba spent most of his childhood.

House where villagers of Qokolweni say Madiba spent some of his growing up years. Picture:EWN

CAPE TOWN - An Eastern Cape tribal council member was on Wednesday speaking of his memories of Madiba saying the former president has a mischievous side and has told stories of what he used to get up to as a child.

Eyewitness News toured Qunu and surrounding areas where Madiba spent most of his childhood and spoke to some elderly neighbours of Madiba's late sister.

Madiba spent a few of his teenage years and went to school in Qokolweni outside Mthatha.

The ailing statesman often returned later in his life to the village as he built a house for his sister there.

Respected elder Clarence Tyopo said Madiba often teased his sister.

"This one time Tata Madiba stole a princess' calabash and drank all the sour milk, the princess cried. He consoled her and said whatever I get I will give you, when I get meat I will give you."

But Tyopo adds his sister ratted on him as soon as their father walked through the door.

"When the princess saw her father she started crying loudly and when he asked what's wrong she said he stole my calabash and he was given a hiding."

Tyopo said Madiba never forgot the place of his childhood.

"He likes this place, he used to come all the time when he was still healthy and he wouldn't miss a funeral here."

The respected elder said elderly residents are especially more comfortable after improvements were made by Madiba himself.

"Cleaning is his initiative, the school, even this tar road, Madiba improved this place."


Meanwhile, a high school principal in the area said he is eternally grateful to Madiba for leading efforts to build the institution.

Xoliliswe Sangoni Comprehensive School has almost 600 pupils and some told Eyewitness News they have dreams of becoming doctors, graphic designers and quantity surveyors.

"My school has opportunities so I'm trying to reach my dreams."

Principal Jonginkhaya Badli said Madiba lived in the area as a teenager and never forgot his people and their need for a school and a clinic.

"Whenever I met Madiba I'd feel rejuvenated."

Badli said he met Madiba several times and remembers his wise words to educate the young generation so that they can be successful in life.


A Cape Town-based tourist guide said visitors were usually stunned when touring Qunu.

Dan Dunn accompanied a group of Michigan University students through Madiba's home town.

Dunn said tourists were often spellbound by the area where Mandela grew up.

"To them, he is a global icon."

Meanwhile, a Mandela Museum tourist guide said some Qunu residents still amble to the church every Sunday where their icon was baptised.

Many residents have attributed infrastructure upgrades in the area to Mandela, while others are proud to be neighbours near his retirement home.

Tourist guide Zimisele Gamakhulu said the crumbling stone church is a beacon of hope to many.

"The African Native Mission Church is one of the churches that started resisting Apartheid and it's where Mandela was baptised."

Gamakhulu said Madiba was born in the village of Mvezo and later moved to Qunu.

"We're not sure about the date he was baptised but I believe it was two years after he started living in Qunu."