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Mandela lookalike vows to carry on legacy

16 December 2013, 07:34

Qunu - Ayanda Mbatyothi, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Nelson Mandela, vowed Sunday to carry on the legacy of the icon who had unwittingly launched his career.

The 37-year-old is the spitting image of Mandela in the days before his arrest in 1962.

Mbatyothi even sounds like Mandela, and makes a living impersonating Madiba on screen.

"Madiba never forgot about the people. I will try and carry forward the very same idea," he told AFP.

"It's a big responsibility," Mbatyothi said ahead of Mandela's burial in Qunu.

He said he often caught passers-by staring at him, stopping and then turning to take a second look, before walking off perplexed.

Mandela himself was taken aback by the similarity, he recounted.

When they met for the first time at a political rally in the mid-1990s, Mbatyothi said he told the great leader: "Ah, you are my twin" in the same distinctive voice now well-known around the globe.

"Mandela turned to me and said: 'My God,' and started laughing," he recalled.

Asked to take up a Mandela boxing pose, made famous in a 1950s a black-and-white picture taken at a gym in Soweto, it is as if the photo itself comes to life and returns to colour.

A recital of Mandela's famous "I am prepared to die" speech, made in April 1964 from the dock during his treason trial, returns one to the courtroom.

Mbatyothi has portrayed the Nobel Peace Prize laureate on numerous occasions, including in a local movie and a documentary about the ANC. 

He uses his uncanny resemblance to the former president to do charity work and bring joy to others.

"Where Madiba used to have a Christmas party for young children every year, I decided to turn it around and be a young Mandela for the elderly, doing a Christmas party for them," he said with a laugh.

Mandela was buried with full military honours in a state funeral on Sunday, concluding 10 days of national mourning.

Mbatyothi said he was worried about a future without his role model.

"I'm thinking, after Mandela is gone... we don't know where this country is going to be," he said.

"But I will always try to dedicate my life to try and be more like him," Mbatyothi said, cracking a broad smile so reminiscent of he late icon.



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