By Shandukani Mulaudzi and Mfuneko Toyana , Qunu – Eastern Cape
Tears, song and cheering filled the marquee where the people of Qunu gathered to bid a fond farewell to their late neighbour and former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Although the mainstream media reported that some members of the Qunu community were disappointed they could not attend the funeral, Wits Vuvuzela found many who contradicted these reports
Hundreds – both young and old – gathered at the Nelson Mandela Museum where they could watch the funeral. Even those who had watched the first part of the programme on their televisions at home headed up the hill to share in the last few moments of the funeral with their fellow community members.
When the procession, led by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), moved towards the burial site some cried while others sat silently and watched.
When the 21 gun salute started the people ran forward to watch the SANDF planes fly over the hills of Qunu. Many raised their fists in a silent salute.
After the screens were turned off the people sat down for a while before heading home.
In Mvezo, where Mandela was born, people were at a public viewing marquee long after the screens were switched off. While children played and dogs ran wild, the elders spoke under the tents and the young men and women leaned against fences chatting.
Diniso Mzikayise was born and raised in Mvezo. He said even though they could not attend the funeral they were happy that the screen was put up so they could share the moment together as a community.
Mzikayise said he did not know of any people who were hurt because they could not go to the funeral. He said if those people did exist, they probably internalised their frustrations.
Mthatha-residents Billy Johnson and Luxolo Ndabeni said they would have happily attended one of the public viewing tents in Qunu fitted with big screens and offering a free lunch after the service.
Unfortunately, Johnson said, they needed to make an urgent delivery that morning, and more importantly, they needed the money.
Ndabeni said he respected Mandela because he had not “abandoned his town like other leaders. But he expressed disappointment that Mthatha residents were not able to attend Mandela’s funeral.
He lamented that only certain could benefit financially from projects intended to develop Mthatha.
“It’s not like in Joburg, here only if you have van then maybe you can make some money. But even then when there are projects only those with connections get the work,” Ndabeni said.
“If you want money but your family aren’t rich and connected …” he added before trailing off.
With the huge tent where the funeral service was being held peering over a slope behind them, Johnson tapped his wrist with two fingers.
“uMandela besimthanda kodwa kufenekile siyenze imali (We loved Mandela but need to make money),” Johnson said.
And off they went.