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South Africans Called Mandela "Tata": The Father of the Nation

11:36 PM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
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Flowers left by mourners surround a portrait of Nelson Mandela in the Sandton district of Johannesburg on Dec. 6, 2013.(Photo: Carl De Souza, AFP/Getty Images)

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was more than a president.

"In South Africa they call him Tata Madiba and Tata is the... word for father," explained Emma Burress.

Emma Burress was 8-years-old when Nelson Mandela became South Africa's president.

She said, "I remember watching the whole inauguration ceremony on TV with my grandmother."

Stefan Fortmann had just turned two. 

READ: Mandela's Visits to U.S. Left Indelible Impressions

Neither grew up in a society separated by Apartheid - but instead in a country reconciled by Mandela.

"He created a great, what he called the Rainbow Nation where all people are equal and the blacks and the whites come together to form one nation," said Fortmann.

Burress added, "He changed our country in ways I could never understand, even still. And the reach of that will go on, forever."

Fortmann is a student at Elon and Burress works in the Global Education Center. Both of them are thousands of miles from South Africa, but they say they still have a close connection with the man they call the father of their nation.

"I'm definitely proud to call myself a South African. I'll always call myself a South African no matter what happens to our country," said Fortmann. 

"I absolutely love it and will always call it home and definitely proud to be associated with Mandela."

"He was a gift -to us and to the whole world and it's a privilege to have been part of the community that he loved," said Burress.

Mandela will be honored with a memorial service Tuesday at the Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium - the same place he made his last public appearance in 2010.

Mandela will be buried next Sunday. President Obama, the First Lady, and Former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton will attend the funeral. 

READ: Obama To Attend Mandela Services

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