Mandela memorial: We were not dishonouring him, we were honouring him

HONOUR HIM WITH A SONG: Young people refused to stop singing at Nelson Mandela's memorial service because they wanted to honour Mandela.

HONOUR HIM WITH A SONG: Young people refused to stop singing at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service because they wanted to honour Mandela.

Singing throughout the entire Nelson Mandela memorial service, even during the speeches of prominent guest speakers, was a way of of showing respect to and honouring Mandela.

“We wanted to express ourselves in a respectful way. That’s how it is here in South Africa,”  said Siyabulela Phila who was one of the lead singers. Phila said that Mandela was a comrade and whenever it was a comrade’s memorial service, “something like this happened”.

Dorah Nhlapo who was also among the singers said, “Mandela comes from mzabalazo [the struggle]. It was our way of showing him respect.”

Nhlapo said their singing was not an indication of their dissatisfaction with anyone, “as long as it is Nelson Mandela’s memorial, we will keep our dissatisfaction to ourselves.”

Pila said what they didn’t like was “the other heads of states were talking Chinese and we could not hear them. The sound was very poor. We could hear the president talking but we could not hear the translator.”

Stephanie Nunes who was at the memorial said the singing did not bother her, “I’m used to it. It’s my country.”

According to Phila, whenever the sound quality was bad or and “the thing of not always showing who is talking” they sang even more. He said they were unable to hear most of the speakers properly, so they sang: “We only heard Barack Obama, of which it was a great speech.”

Cyril Ramaphosa attempted to get the enthusiastic singers to quieter down but had very little success. There were even media reports  saying policemen had been called to bring order to the situation. In the end it was Desmond Tutu who managed to get the relentless singers to keep quiet: “I want to remind you that we got to be at this point because we were disciplined. Now I want to show the world, which has come out here to celebrate the life of an extraordinary icon, we want to say thank you to that world but you must show that world that we are disciplined. So I want to hear a pin drop.”

South Africans drown Mandela sorrows in boos

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Some of the crowd at FNB Stadium jeered the South African President Jacob Zuma during former president Nelson Mandela’s memorial. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi.

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.