The story of the Chinese in South Africa is often overlooked in the historical record of how blacks gained citizenship and democracy was established.
SOWETO, South Africa — Ivan Kee came to Nelson Mandela's former home in this black township Sunday to show that as an ethnic Chinese, he too felt liberated by the long struggle Mandela led for an end to official racism in the nation.
And he arrived on a Harley-Davidson Wide Glide.
Kee, 53, who has lived in South Africa since the middle 1970s, was dressed in motorcycle leathers and wearing a Harley Owners Group patch on his back as throngs of motorcycle club members gathered loudly around Mandela's one-time home on Vilakazi Street to honor the late leader.
Kee described how he and his family were treated as non-citizens just as majority blacks were under the racist apartheid system of racial separation that Mandela devoted his life to changing.
"Chinese people were regarded as second-class citizens,'' he said.
The story of the Chinese in South Africa is often overlooked in the historical record of how blacks gained citizenship and democracy was established, allowing Mandela to become the nation's first black president in 1994. Asians make up less than 3% of the nation's population, and the bulk of those are from India.
Kee, a dental technician from Pretoria, was born in Ireland to Chinese parents who moved to Africa for economic opportunity, living first in Botswana before arriving in South Africa.
Upon confronting the harsh realities of an apartheid system that left him on the margins of society, Kee joined the African National Congress as a teenager and has remained active, to varying degrees, ever since.
Mandela became leader of the ANC's youth arm and later the full ANC, which is now the governing party of South Africa's government, but was banned by the white government from 1960 to 1990.
Kee said Mandela's release from prison in February 1990, after 27 years, was the day he regards as his own day of liberation.
"The day he walked out of prison, we all felt we were free now. We were going to move ahead,'' he said.