Home News Mandela memorial — the second-hand view

Mandela memorial — the second-hand view

Published on 10/12/2013

As tens of thousands of South Africans gave their beloved Nelson Mandela a joyful send-off in Soweto on Tuesday, millions more watched the memorial live at home, in bars and restaurants or on giant screens.

“I’m just enjoying the world coming together for the sake of Mandela,” said Zama Shibe, 29, one of four people watching the live broadcast in a restaurant and bar in Gugulethu township outside Cape Town.

Proud that Mandela “belongs to us”, Tony Balanco, 51, said it was impressive that Mandela had retained his iconic status despite having been out of office for so long.

“I don’t think any leader or statesman in the world has had this recognition. Not even the Pope has drawn such a call-out,” he said.

Close to 100 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, had travelled to South Africa to participate in Tuesday’s memorial ceremony in Soweto’s World Cup stadium.

At Cape Town’s popular V&A Waterfront on a hot summery day, Asanda Mahlukani, 28, gave the speeches by Obama and other foreign dignitaries the nod of approval.

“I really loved most of the speakers especially when Barack said Mandela not only freed the people but the prison guards too,” she said.

“But I think everyone who spoke actually understood who he was and what he meant to us.”

But Mahlukani said she wished she could have made it in person to the Soweto event, rather than watching in the viewing areas set up in Cape Town.

“It’s so much more fun there — that’s where it’s at,” she said, laughing at how the organisers in Soweto had tried to prevent the crowds there being too noisy during the speeches.

“You know South Africans, we love to dance and sing,” she told AFP.

“When we are happy, when we are sad, in mourning, we sing and dance. It’s our culture. It’s what we do.”

There were some clenched fists and cries of “viva” at the sun-baked main viewing area opposite the Cape Town city hall where Mandela gave his first speech in 1990 after walking out of prison.

Michelle Machelm, 47, said it was thanks to Mandela that the country was free.

“Everybody thought when he came out of prison, he was just going to take revenge. But he surprised everybody with the way he did it,” she said.

Away from the main viewing area, a giant screen in a busy street attracted a crowd who sat or stood on the pavement.

“I don’t believe that in this world there will be another man like Mandela because there is no other one who can sacrifice like he did,” said Sonwabile Peter, 43.

When asked why he was watching in town, he responded: “I don’t have such a big screen at home.”