In a Pretoria Grocery Store

Two days after Nelson Mandela died, members of the Soweto Gospel Choir took over the Woolworth grocery store in Pretoria’s Parkview neighborhood. There was really nothing spontaneous about it except for the heartfelt response of shoppers. The choir had planned to surprise the crowd with a James Brown tune, but after the death of the revered patriot they chose this number, “Asimbonanga,” a tribute Johnny Clegg wrote during Mandela’s imprisonment on Robben Island:

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water


A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

— “Asimbonanga,” Johnny Clegg , via MetroLyrics


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