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Many optimistic despite Mandela's passing

Thursday - 12/12/2013, 3:38pm  ET

South African mourner, Charlotte Nthetea, 35, poses for a picture, while waiting with other mourners for hours to catch a bus to see the body of former President Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Nelson Mandela is gone, but many mourners waiting patiently for a chance to see Mandela for a last time on Thursday said they retain high hopes about South Africa’s future. If the heady optimism of the days when South Africa’s peaceful transformation to democracy two decades ago has been diminished by time and economic challenges, many still believe the years ahead can be fruitful, with growing opportunity. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

GREGORY KATZ
Associated Press

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Nelson Mandela is gone, but many mourners waiting patiently for a chance to see Mandela for a last time on Thursday said they retain high hopes about South Africa's future. If the heady optimism of the days when South Africa's peaceful transformation to an all-race democracy in the 1994 elections has been diminished by time and economic challenges, many still believe the years ahead can be fruitful, with growing opportunity.

Still, there is fear that Mandela's passing might open a door to unrest, clashes and possibly worse. And there are serious concerns about youth unemployment, crime and persistent poverty.

These are the profiles and thoughts of some of the mourners who waited in tremendously long lines to see their anti-apartheid hero.

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AKUM JULIUS ACHEM, a quality controller at a company that builds boilers and other equipment, is hoping there is little change in the country he has lived in for 10 years. But the Cameroonian worries about South Africans rejecting Africans from other countries who come here seeking work.

"There are a lot of rumors that after death of Madiba (Mandela's clan name) a lot of things are going to change. But for the past 20 years South Africa has been becoming more mature in in its democracy, so I don't foresee changes.

"There is still a lot of hurtness in the black community, as I can see, you can see the grievances. But the majority are seeking education. When people are educated, they really know what is a brother or a sister from another country. Education is the main thing. The more education South Africans get, the more they will behave. Education is the key point.

"My worry is about the xenophobia. That is the worry. It started when he (Mandela) was alive. If that word could be erased, the worry would be out also."

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CHETNA KALIAN, a teacher in a school near Pretoria, is a Hindu who is very enthused about South Africa's future but concerned that violence could break out again. She was in line with her two daughters, who shared her optimism about the future.

"All we can hope for is that people stick to Mandela's principles. I have lived through the apartheid era. I have been telling my daughters what we were and weren't allowed to do and they were quite amazed because they didn't know what it's been like. All we can pray for is that we don't have a war breaking out. People have been liberated, and they are living very nicely, so let's hope and pray that things go on the way they are at the moment. Let's hope now things don't turn around now that he's gone. You never know, the younger generation, what could be going through their minds."

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HAYLEY HOLTZHAUSEN is a diversity manager at a petrochemical company who worries about South Africa's pervasive crime but feels society will keep making progress in the coming years.

"Mandela's dream was of togetherness, that we can all live together and work together in unity. There's been quite a bit of transformation in the last 19 years. Now if you look at the workplace there are opportunities for all races and genders, and also your schools, and opportunities provided for everyone. It's the equality that has grown and will grow, most definitely. People are pulling together. Companies are realizing that this is what's needed. We need to work together as one country.

"I think the crime stands out as number one (worry) for me. That it is just everywhere and every day. This is all part of the current unemployment that we are sitting with."

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JEREMIAH SIKHOSANA left his position with a telecoms company six months ago to start a consulting service. The 46-year-old is struggling to get his new business off the ground, but he believes his future -- and that of South Africa -- is sound. Economic growth, he believes, will solve a host of ills, including the xenophobia that has seen some South Africans clash with immigrants from other African countries.

"My business is very tough right now. It's not the best time to venture out on your own, when the economy is flat. Consulting is a service business, and a lot of companies are cutting back on that. ... There are still a lot of economic problems. Growth is less than 2 percent. Now some people are saying that others are coming in to South Africa to take their jobs. But I know when the economy is pumping again, everyone will feel good. You won't see xenophobia."

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