Uniting world at Memorial for Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 MadibaTuesday

More than 90 current heads of state attending and thousands of South Africans came together on Tuesday in the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg for the final tribute to Mandela, one of the greatest events of this century according to the press.

Millions of mourners are expected to attend the memorial ceremony at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium

Millions of mourners followed the memorial ceremony at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium

The world was to remember a great statesman who very well know his limitations and could admit to imperfection. Sometimes he did look like made of steel, but he was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend of many, not restricting himself to the ones from ‘the left’ or from ‘the right’.

The performance of Mandela can be compared with the life’s work of Mahatma Ghandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Mandela’s commitment to freedom and democracy fits in the row of the greats of history.

He did not restrict himself to meeting with like minded of himself and his other friends. He did dare to cross boarders. Like other early giants of the ANC – the Sisulus and Tambos – Madiba disciplined his anger; and channelled his desire to fight into organisation, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their dignity. Even those who were against him, he did not mind to shake hands with  and to try to come to the senses. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith.  He should be an example for many generations to come because he tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

For Belgium king Philip (Filip), prime minister Elio di Rupo, Vlaams Minister-President Kris Peeters and foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders were present with the Flemish Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Union. For the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  and behalf Netherlands were King Willem-Alexander and Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans present.

For me it is strange that one of the main figures of the European Union, German chancellor angel Merkel,  was not present.
Dagmar Dehmer writes in Der Tagesspiegel:

“What does Angela Merkel actually want to convey with this rather cool decision not to travel to South Africa? That she does not particularly care about Africa?… The decision to stay away from the celebrations of the life and lifetime achievements of Nelson Mandela is wrong.”

Also not present was the Dalai Lama, who could not receive twice a visum to South Africa the previous years.

Notable for the United States were Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush en Bill Clinton, and Richard Branson and prince Charles for the U.K.. Stars like supermodel Naomi Campbell and musicians Bono, Annie Lennox and Peter Gabriel came to honour their idol.

Former South African president F.W. De Klerk arrived with his wife Elita for the memorial service. “We are very grateful that the nation is coming together in this wonderful way,” said de Klerk, the last white president of South Africa and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela.

Former South African president F.W. De Klerk arrived with his wife Elita for the memorial service.

The last white president of South Africa and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, F.W. De Klerk with his wife Elita alsopresent said to be

“ very grateful that the nation is coming together in this wonderful way.”

The former South African first black president’s body was not brought to the national memorial service in Johannesburg. His voice was not heard over the loudspeakers, though many others’ were. And in a peculiarly rambling, rain-soaked event that got bogged down in domestic politics and ended in a near empty stadium. According  of the Guardian in Johannesburg, at times it felt as if Mandela’s soul was absent too.

All over the world people could see singing and dancing Africans, black and whites, rich and poor, together united in joy for what Mandela had done. SABC was airing the memorial live on Tuesday, and showed the only black spot on the memorial with images of Zuma arriving at the FNB Stadium, both on TV and big screens inside, when people in the crowd began to jeer and boo.

During preparation for the evening’s news bulletin in South Africa, head of news Jimi Matthews allegedly told staff the booing incidents should not be included and that booing should rather be referred to as “unruly behaviour” by people in the crowd.

Jacob Zuma, former vice president of South Africa.

Jacob Zuma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the Flemish news the reporter asked several spectators and security officers why there was such booing and why the security officer tried to silence those that booed. Many spectators said the press  better concentrated on the reason why they where there, remembering Mandela and not for talking about president Zuma.

Several South African papers focus on the reception given to President Jacob Zuma at the memorial service, with South Africa’s City Press saying the booing was the “start of a very public rebellion”.

The front page of South Africa’s The Times says simply “Rain boo nation”, while The Citizen carries the headline “What a shame”.

An editorial on the Times Live website says:

“It is a pity that, on the day the world came together to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, large sections of the crowd at the official memorial service heckled and booed President Jacob Zuma. Not because our scandal-prone, often bumbling, president doesn’t deserve it – he manifestly does… Yesterday was a day to celebrate a giant – and our president paid the price for failing to measure up.”

On Tuesday morning president Obama and former President George W. Bush with their wives had arrived. The main speaker was the current South African President Jacob Zuma. The presidents of Brazil, India and the Chinese vice president spoke of a farewell.

When the president of athe United States went up the stairs to give his speech he encountered the five other speakers of the ceremony. He first passed the ‘state enemy’ for 50 years already, the Cuban president. A rare gesture between the leaders of two ideological opponents that reflected the anti-apartheid hero’s spirit of reconciliation. U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro. This gesture brought much commotion in the American press where many jokes also found their way on television that night. On Flemish television many angry Cubans, living in the U.S. where shown not to be pleased with such an act, like it would be able to open a reconciliation with Cuba. Cuban papers do not mention the handshake between President Raul Castro and Mr Obama but focus on Mr Castro’s speech at the memorial instead.

In Mexico, two papers praise Mr Obama highly for shaking hands with the Cuban president.
El Universal says: “In the end, with his courteous gesture to Raul Castro, Obama put himself forward like a statesman worthy of taking up the baton left by Mandela.”
Mexico’s La Prensa points out that the US and Cuba “are two countries that have been at odds for half a century and for a few seconds, they had their first rapprochement”.

For other international papers this gesture was used as a peg to explore relations between the two countries and noticing Raul Castro saying that even in death, Mr Mandela achieved reconciliation..

The U.S. President Obama paid tribute to a hero and a leader — and spoke about the path that’s still ahead, but also Cuban President Raul Castro expressed the grieving crowd. To cheers, US President Barack Obama hailed Mr Mandela as the “last great liberator of the 20th Century”

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Obama said:

To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogise any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”  But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

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We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own.  Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land.  It stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us.  After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength – for his largeness of spirit – somewhere inside ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach – think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

What a great soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.

US President Barack Obama (right) offers his condolences to Nelson Mandela's wife, Graça Machel. (AFP)

Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela’s 2° wife with US President Barack Obama offering his condolences

“Planet Mandela” (L’Humanite) was not totally filled because many people could not reach the memorial place, or like Obama arrived not on time, held back by traffic. On that rainy day the rainbow nation could give a voice to the world giving the sign that many should also have chosen the path of non-violence to prevent the foreign war in their country and to fully ensure their national unity and sovereignty. (cfr. Afghanistan). Many newspapers all over the world agreed that

Mr Mandela “will be an example and inspiration to billions of people.”

President Zuma described, in his speech, the moment the world first saw a “tall, imposing figure walking out into a world he had left behind 27 years before”. For him South Africans were, at that time, a “downtrodden people” and that they “needed a leader like Madiba”. And Madiba Mandela was the right “freedom fighter” for the black people of South Africa.

US President Barack Obama's group self-portrait with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her UK counterpart David Cameron

US President Barack Obama’s group self-portrait with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her UK counterpart David Cameron

A picture of Thorning-Schmidt taking a smartphone picture of herself, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron quickly went viral, with some users on social media – mostly from outside South Africa – commenting that it seemed an inappropriate thing to do at a memorial service. But the photographer responsible for capturing the moment, Agence France-Presse’s Roberto Schmidt, disagreed.

“I captured the scene reflexively,” Schmidt recounted in a blog post.

“All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honour their departed leader. It was more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid. The ceremony had already gone on for two hours and would last another two. The atmosphere was totally relaxed – I didn’t see anything shocking in my viewfinder, president of the US or not. We are in Africa.”

It also showed how those leaders are also common people, loving to have some snapshots for their family, like any other tourist.

“I know that I’m going to focus on what was most important yesterday [Tuesday] … I’m not going to be distracted by petty sidelines,”

said US ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, when asked about the incident. He also condemned “petty cynicism” that could distract from properly remembering Mandela.

South Africans seemed impressed that so many world leaders had travelled to the memorial, and were unsurprised that they socialised while at the service. In the FNB Stadium, Obama was warmly received, and widely praised for his touching remarks.

President Barack Obama stands next to the sign language interpreter after making his speech (AP)

The man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, proved once more that the ANC still have to do a lot of work concerning the people they will have around them. This fake interprator was simply “making childish hand gestures” for hours, making no sense in any language to those relying on him around the world, and did not seem to know the recognised signs for South Africa, Mr Mandela’s clan name Madiba, President Jacob Zuma or former President Thabo Mbeki.

On television we could hear some negative voices a s well on that day.

Mandela’s death at the age of 95 has diverted attention from a slew of corruption scandals in Zuma’s administration, while underscoring the gulf between South Africa’s first black president, a giant of the 20th century, and its fourth.

“Mandela had a vision. Mandela lived that vision,”

said Funeka Gingcara-Sithole, 31, who was in the crowd.

“But what Zuma speaks, he doesn’t live. He should do the honorable thing and resign.”

A pity we did hear many similar voices, regretting that the work of Madiba was not continued and that many in the government now did not live up to the spirit of their previous great leader.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, Gaspard also took no official notice of either the behaviour of the crowd at the memorial – which the ANC characterised as problematic – or the booing of President Jacob Zuma.

The visiting US delegation, Gaspard said when asked about their reaction to the atmosphere in the stadium, had “remarked on the positive outpouring of support” for Mandela and his legacy.

He described the audience as “spirited folks”.

Nelson Mandela’s distraught widow was among thousands of mourners who paid their last respects before his open casket Wednesday, as the much-loved leader lay in state.

Among the dignitaries were Mandela’s former political foe FW de Klerk, ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and musician and activist Bono.

The Irish rocker accompanied Mandela’s long time aide-de-camp Zelda Le Grange, who appeared heartbroken and needed to be supported throughout.

Navy officers stand guard by the coffin of South African …
Navy officers, clad in white dress uniform, heads bowed, eyes closed and swords pointing downward, stand guard at each end of the casket in respect of the father of the nation of South Africa

Thousands more people who were in the queue, which at one point stretched for around one and a half kilometres (a mile), were unable to complete their mission.

They, along with thousands of others, will get a second chance on Thursday.


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Please do find:

  1. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – Madiba passed away
  2. Master of disguise And five other things you didn’t know about Mandela
  3. Apartheid: 46 years in 90 seconds
  4. Milestones in video and pictures
  5. Destroyer of apartheid
  6. Preparations for the ‘greatest event of the century” flemish commercial television VTM: Viering nachtmerrie voor veiligheid
    De herdenkingsplechtigheid voor Nelson Mandela morgen gaat door in het Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Ze verwachten daar 95.000 mensen, waaronder tal van koningen, presidenten, ministers en vedetten van over de hele wereld. Die mensen hun veiligheid garanderen is een gigantische operatie. Maar het is maar de vraag op de Zuid-Afrikanen daar klaar voor zijn.
  7. FCO warns British tourists in South Africa over Nelson Mandela’s memorial service
  8. As it happened: Nelson Mandela memorial service
  9. Live: The World Gathers for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service
  10. Lovely photographs of the occasion: Bijna de hele wereld bij herdenking Mandela 33 foto’s
  11. ‘Let Mandela Be a Beacon’: What Teachers Will Tell Their Students Friday
  12. World media reflect on Mandela memorial service
  13. World leaders pay tribute to Mandela
  14. Obama and Castro shake hands, Zuma humiliated at Mandela memorial
  15. Obama pays homage to ‘great soul’ of Mandela
  16. Barack Obama lights up damp Nelson Mandela memorial
  17. Nelson Mandela memorial interpreter ‘was a fake’
  18. SABC censors footage of Zuma booing at Mandela memorial
  19. Tears as Mandela lies in state
  20. Cameron jokes about Mandela ‘selfie’ with a Kinnock

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  • Raul Castro’s Speech at Mandela’s Memorial (youthandeldersja.wordpress.com)
    President Jacob Zuma, relatives of Nelson Mandela, distinguished dignitaries, fraternal people of South Africa, let us pay an emotional tribute to Nelson Mandela, the ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle for freedom and justice; a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation.
  • (tiny Photos) Nelson Mandela Memorial Service (crownbc.wordpress.com)
    Tens of thousands of people joined world leaders at a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. The service was held at the FNB stadium, where Mr Mandela made his last public appearance. It was also shown on big screens at three “overflow” stadiums.
  • Behind Obama’s Handshake With Raúl Castro (likeandmention.wordpress.com)
    When President Obama shook hands with the Cuban President, Raúl Castro, on Tuesday, in the V.I.P. section at Nelson Mandela’s memorial in Johannesburg, there was more at work than mere politeness between heads of state, although that certainly played a part. Bill Clinton shook Fidel Castro’s hand at a U.N. gathering in 2000. As the first African-American President of the United States, and an avowed admirer of Nelson Mandela since his youth, Obama has to know of the historic role played by Cuba in the anti-apartheid struggle.
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    In the United States, Obama, too, represents a new era, a post-ideological world and one of diminished expectations, but one also made better and fairer by Nelson Mandela. Obama himself is the benefactor of an epic political struggle that took place a generation and more ago, in which Mandela may have had a more directly positive role than some of the men who previously occupied the White House. Paradoxically, given the constraints remaining in their own country, the Castro brothers played a role, too. If handshakes are symbols of reconciliation, then it is historically fitting that Obama and Raúl Castro greeted one another today in Johannesburg’s FNB soccer stadium.
  • President Obama leads tributes to Nelson Mandela at memorial service (itv.com)
    President Obama spoke early in the ceremony and there were reports that many left the huge stadium after his address. When president Zuma rose to speak he was greeted by jeering so loud that organisers cut in with a musical interlude to drown out the boos from the crowd.
  • Mandela – Rest in Peace (lemixmedia.wordpress.com)
  • Nelson Mandela memorial service: Obama says, ‘We, too, must act’ on justice, peace (lincsxplorer.wordpress.com)
    “Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.”
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    “These world leaders should listen to what he said,” said Kagiso Mfikoe, who lives in Soweto Township. “That’s what we need in Africa.”
  • Mandela unites world (newsday.co.zw)
    The world leaders joined several Hollywood stars and supermodels who also braved the rains to pay their last respect to the liberation icon.

    The mourners in the half full 95 000 capacity stadium who braved the rains gave a standing ovation to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who took over the reins from Mandela, United States President Barack Obama and Zimbabwean leader President Robert Mugabe.

    But South African President Jacob Zuma was loudly booed, suffering political humiliation as the world watched.

    Sections of the crowd jeered when Zuma arrived at the venue in Soweto and each time his face appeared on giant screens during the ceremony, in contrast to the reception given to Mbeki, Obama and Mugabe.

    In a rare gesture between leaders of the ideologically opposed nations that reflected the anti-apartheid hero’s spirit of reconciliation, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the memorial.

  • Obama Shakes Hands With Cuba’s Raul Castro at Mandela’s Funeral (mashable.com)
    Obama also shook hands with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, who has been highly critical of the United States following this summer’s NSA surveillance revelations. She even called off a visit to Washington in September to protest the reported NSA spying on Brazil’s state oil agency Petrobras.
  • ‘Stop comparing Zuma and Mandela’ (iol.co.za)
    ANC national executive committee member Bheki Cele has cautioned against comparing President Jacob Zuma with former president Nelson Mandela, saying the two men are from different eras.

    He was delivering the keynote address at Mandela’s memorial service in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday evening.

    “Mandela is a man of his time, just like other leaders who have made their mark in different times of history. This obsession with comparisons must stop,” said Cele.

    He also lashed at the people who jeered Zuma at the memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

    “No amount of anger allows people to embarrass the president. Anyone who does that is a fool, because if there are problems they should be solved through discussions,” added Cele.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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