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A memorable memorial


THE week following Nelson Mandela’s passing has been commemorated by a country in mourning.

The mood has been a mixture of joyful jubilation of song and dance as people celebrate his life interspersed with tears of melancholy as they mourn his loss.

On a Tuesday December 10, a day devoid of sunshine and awash with rain; thousands thronged the FNB Stadium undeterred by the weather to be a part of this memorable occasion.

This has been indeed the biggest send-off ever witnessed in history since Winston Churchill (British). The guest list had the who’s who in global leadership from Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai to Zimbawe’s President Robert Mugabe.

Even in death, Mandela managed to bring foes and friends to congregate in the same space. No one will forget the handshake between American President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro (Cuba).

It might have been ceremonial yet we certainly hope it will translate to bigger things in the spirit of what Nelson Mandela stood for. As the headliner on the programme, Obama led a powerhouse US delegation with former presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Jimmy Carter in tow.

British Prime Minister David Cameron who in the ’80s militantly campaigned to have Nelson Mandela persecuted for terrorism was there too.

Mugabe, who now carries the reputation of bad boy of African politics attended and was received with a resounding welcome.

This open show of affection baffled the foreign media who were unable to decipher the reasons behind the statesman’s unwavering popularity. In addition to the politicians were the rollcall of celebrities and entertainers from Bono to Naomi Campbell.

However there was also the glaring absence of those who did not attend; the very people who are supposedly recipients of the reconciliation that Mandela so tenaciously sought to establish.

There was a sprinkling of white faces in the sea of black folk that populated the FNB stadium albeit for a few hours. It is this lack of solidarity that makes you reflect that this is a country more divided as opposed to united.

Then we had the booing which met President Jacob Zuma as he made his way to the podium. It is no secret that the highlight of Zuma’s tenure in presidency has been that of corruption from Nkandlagate to Guptagate against the backdrop of a shrinking economy, high unemployment and labour unrest.

The recent implementation of the e-tolling system has also taken its toll and served to fuel his unpopularity.

Nonetheless all this does not warrant booing a country’s president in front of the whole world. Yes, this is a democracy and people have a right to express themselves.

However, let us point out this was a memorial service and not a political rally. People should express their discontent in appropriate forums. This was a sombre occasion to mourn and commiserate the life of Nelson Mandela and not an occasion to humiliate the sitting president.

In a democracy, people express their discontent at the ballot box and not by booing and heckling in an uncivilised manner. Following this incident there were calls for Zuma to resign because about +/- 90 000 people in a country of over 50 million booed him?

It must be remembered that democracy reflects the majority of the people and not a few thousands. It is not by accident that Zuma landed as president of this country; he was elected in a democratic process; a process Mandela fought tirelessly to install. I also believe part of Mandela’s legacy was to establish a Rainbow Nation and not a Rain Boo one.

And finally off course we had the debacle that resulted because of the fake interpreter at the funeral. Instead of signing for the deaf, Thamsanqa Jantjie was said to be flapping his arms in an incoherent manner. This has undoubtedly angered the deaf community for obvious reasons.

It has also raised questions as to how this man made his way past all scrutiny to assume this position on the podium among the most prolific people in the world.

I will instead choose to laugh about this in the stream of untold rage that follows him. When all is said and done he will be another memorable thing about this memorial service.

Mandela was said to be a humorous man and maybe we should look at the lighter side of life. He did not pose a security threat, so we might as well accord him his moment of fame. He will definitely go down in history as the man who faked his way through the Mandela memorial.

 Sukoluhle Nyathi is the author of The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi

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