Zaheer Cassim

Zaheer Cassim writes for USA Today.

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Speculation About Mandela’s Fate Seen as Cultural Taboo

Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in 2008. Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Will native son and national hero Nelson Mandela survive his latest bout with illness? That is the single question dominating headlines, speeches, twitter, and conversation throughout South Africa.

It’s an unusual situation in a country where death is an off-limits topic due to local culture. But as locals brace themselves, anxious, and hopeful, they remain stoic and protective, insisting on Mandela’s privacy as he battles a lung infection. And they say he has a right to be left alone.

“This is a man who gave so much of himself to this country,” said Roseline Wilson, 30, an insurance company representative in Johannesburg. “He must rest. He has suffered too much in his old age.”