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“When he was set free, he didn’t think of vengeance,” Molepo said. “He wanted peace for the nation.”

In 1993, after white extremists killed Chris Hani, a black leader who at the time was second only to Mandela in popularity, Mandela went on national television to call for calm. Mandela wrote later that he was among those who feared Hani’s death would spark a race war, and his measured words were credited with averting further violence.

Today, white extremists have been largely sidelined. And black militants like Julius Malema, head of the ANC’s youth wing, grab headlines but struggle to draw crowds.

Christian Bohm, a 32-year-old Swedish telecommunications company employee who was visiting the Mandela museum Saturday, said Mandela had set an example for the world for how leaders can pursue justice.

South Africa is very privileged to have had such a leader,” said Bohm, comparing Mandela to India’s Mahatma Gandhi.

Hassan Burma was visiting Soweto from South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year, and its leaders must now cope with the devastation of decades of civil war. Burma said Mandela has shown Africa has different possibilities.

“What he did wasn’t just for South Africa,” Burma said. “It is for all the African nations.”

Mandela’s public appearances have become increasingly rare, though he did appear at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in July 2010. Mandela also held a private meeting with Michelle Obama when the U.S. first lady traveled to South Africa with her daughters last year.

Mandela has taken up permanent residence at his home in Qunu, in the southwestern region of South Africa where he was raised. Earlier this year, Mandela came to his Johannesburg home for what Zuma’s office said would be a brief stay while maintenance was done at his Qunu home. Zuma’s office said then that Mandela was in good health.

Mandela’s last surviving sibling, a sister, died last month near Qunu. Makhulu Nothusile Bhulehluthi was 82. Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, their father, had several wives and 31 children.