and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a selfie photo with
Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt (center) as First Lady
Michelle watches the memorial service |
The repeated and loud jeering struck a discordant note over a memorial which saw Barack Obama of the US and Raúl Castro of Cuba crossing their ideological divide to join in celebrating Mandela’s remarkable life.
The former liberation fighter, who became South Africa’s first black president, gained iconic status after leading his country through the dramatic transition from apartheid to democracy. In doing so, he reached out to his oppressors and preached reconciliation, in spite of being imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid regime. He became one of the world’s most adored figures – his appeal unrivalled as his popularity effortlessly straddled race, religion and politics.
“It took a man like Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well,” Mr Obama told the cheerful crowd, as rain poured over Soweto, the black township on the outskirts of Johannesburg that saw fierce battles during apartheid.
It was before delivering his much-anticipated speech that he shook Mr Castro’s hand. Washington and Havana broke off their relationship after the 1959 revolution, and the handshake with Mr Castro is the first public one between leaders of the two countries in decades. It comes as Washington tries to mend its relationship with another foe, Iran, after 30 years of hostile rhetoric and tensions.
The global collection of current and former leaders, including four US presidents, surpassed the more than 70 heads of state that joined in 2005 for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. South African diplomats said they believed it was the largest ever, and it included leaders from the Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan, and a host of African and western nations.
But while foreign leaders entered the stadium amid cheers, many in the crowd in Soweto – and in Johannesburg where hundreds more watched on big television screens – booed repeatedly whenever Mr Zuma came into focus, forcing senior leaders of the African National Congress, the party that Mandela led into a historic victory in the first democratic elections in 1994, to ask for “discipline”.
“Our generation feels this way about Zuma – he is not the legitimate leader, he is not respecting the values of the ANC,” said Sussy, who declined to provide her surname while watching the memorial in Johannesburg on a big screen. “We do not want Zuma to be associated with the memory of Mandela.”
But others questioned whether the memorial of the most beloved president was the appropriate time to vent their frustrations. They also noted that whatever the misgivings about Mr Zuma, he was also jailed in the notorious Robben Island prison together with Mandela for 10 years.
Still, the public display of discontent is likely to rattle ANC leaders while the party is gearing up for elections in the first half of 2014, with its credibility in decline and new opposition parties increasing the political competition.
power, but it might be an early indication of the link that could develop between the unhappiness of citizens, including ANC supporters, and electoral outcomes.” Although the ruling party is expected to win, many commentators inside and outside the ANC are predicting that its share of the vote will fall to its lowest level in two decades.
After the memorial service, Mandela’s body will lie in state for three days at Union Buildings, the seat of government in Pretoria. His coffin will be taken in a cortege through the streets of the capital each morning to allow as many South Africans as possible a final glimpse of the statesman. He will then be flown to his rural home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province for a state funeral on Sunday.
Since Mandela’s death, at 95, was announced late on Thursday, South Africans have been reacting to the loss with an emotional mix of grief and celebration of the former liberation fighter’s incredible life. Hundreds of people have been visiting Mandela’s homes in Johannesburg – one in the affluent suburb of Houghton where he died, the other in the famous black township of Soweto – day and night to pay homage to the former president. Some brought flowers and tears, others music and dance as blacks sang songs dating back to the struggle against apartheid.