SACRAMENTO - Whether white South Africans considered Nelson Mandelaa hero or a villain largely depended on when they were born.

"Growing up white in South Africa, we were taught he was a traitor to the state," said Janice Bowen, 50, now living in Carmichael.

Janice was born one year before Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for anti-apartheid government activities.

Janice's 23-year-old friend Amy Coetzee was born the year Mandela was released from prison, and she had an entirely different view as a child.

"You could say when I was growing up in South Africa, he was my president and I was proud to be growing up in a generation that was proud to have him as their president," Amy said.

Janice left white-ruled South Africa in 1981 to spend a year in Oregon as an exchange student, and only then didthe distance give her some perspective.

"Looking back, I really began to understand who Nelson Mandela was," she said.

Janice later worked as a TV news producer for the South African Broadcast Corporation and said meeting Mandela was one of the highlights of her life.

"The fact that he came out of jail after all those years and all that hardship and extended a hand to all South Africans was really an incredible thing," Janice said. "I think that will be his legacy."

by George Warren,

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