An unruly crowd spoiled proceedings at what was meant to be a sombre memorial for former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg today.
On the day on which South Africans gathered with international visitors to unite in memory of Madiba, a significant portion of the mourners at FNB Soccer Stadium was unable to hide their dissatisfaction with the current South African president Jacob Zuma.
As dignitaries from around the world including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and former South African president Thabo Mbeki were shown arriving for the memorial the crowd cheered them on enthusiastically but Zuma’s image on the large screens around the stadium was treated with loud booing and jeering.
Deputy-president of the African National Congress (ANC) Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to the crowd to be disciplined but as he did so, an image of US President Barack Obama was shown to which the crowd responded with cheers. Immediately afterwards, Zuma was shown again to further booing.
The crowd became more restless when the screens stopped focusing on the speakers on the stage. During Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s speech singing erupted from the stands. The African Union chair’s speech was interrupted by Ramaphosa who yet again appealed for quiet.
The disruptive behaviour persisted during the rest of the program although US President Barack Obama’s speech received more attention and applause.
Soon after Obama’s speech though large groups of people made their way out of the stadium.
“Where is the Ubuntu?”
Ramaphosa finally resorted to speaking in Isizulu and pleaded for the crowd to be disciplined and refrain from embarrassing the country in front of foreign guests.
One South African journalist was overheard saying: “Some in the country are so angry that even Mandela’s spirit of unity can’t silence people.”
People on Twitter expressed their disappointment in the crowd’s behaviour.
Mel Msane (@mel_msane) tweeted:“Buphi Ubuntu” – “Where is the Ubuntu?”. Liesl Frankson (@LieslFrankson) said: “This is so ridiculous why can’t people respect that this is not about the president and former president it’s about #Madiba!! Stop booing!”.
Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib (@adhabb) tweeted: I am not sure it is that it is appropriate to boo Zuma at Madiba’s memorial. This is Madiba’s day. We should not be distracted from this. ”
Attention then turned to concern for what would happen during the President’s keynote. A praise poet made an unscheduled but welcome appearance in order to introduce Zuma but this did little to settle the restless crowd. Zuma’s appearance thereafter was briefly greeted with more booing but the crowd quietened as he spoke and he concluded to some applause.