The spokesman for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) says the party is grateful to the heads of state and government as well as people around the world who showed their support during the memorial service of anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela.
Jackson Mthembu said the large number of leaders in attendance shows the impact former president Nelson Mandela had on South Africa and the entire world.
“We were very honored and also humbled by the world coming and gracing this memorial service of Madiba,” said Mthembu. “[They] all came to pay their respect to Madiba because of what he represented: freedom, social justice, a caring world,…but also South Africa that is at peace with itself, and South Africa that can even get better.”
More than 80 heads of state and government attended the memorial ceremony, including U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
“South Africans have appreciated the presence of the world leaders in their midst as we celebrate and mourn a life well lived,” said Mthembu.
Tuesday was a work day in South Africa, but many fully participated in one way or another to paying their respects to their former leader, said Mthembu.
The remains of Mandela are scheduled to lie in state at the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria Wednesday. Mthembu said the week’s memorial events were well planned to meet the expectations of Mandela’s family and of all South Africans.
“The other services that are planned including the laying of our [former] president in state starting [Tuesday] up to Friday, we think information has been given to the South African public, and also to our national partners and other governments of the world about all these activities,” said Mthembu.
However the ANC leader condemned a section of the public who booed President Jacob Zuma as he delivered his tribute to Mandela at the memorial service. Mthembu said the ANC and other opposition parties are displeased with the booing, which he said was disrespectful.
“We don’t know what was behind these behaviors that are alien, because as South Africans we would have expected all of us to treat this activity of Madiba with respect and give it the dignity it deserves,” said Mthembu. “I can tell you that all South Africans have frowned [upon] this alien behavior. But again these behaviors were not able to disrupt the service.”
Some political observers say President Zuma was booed because of his government’s failure to keep its promises and by recent accusations that Zuma spent $200 million in taxpayer money to renovate his home. But, Mthembu said it was inappropriate for people to disrespect Mandela’s memorial service in spite of their displeasure with the current president.
“The platform can’t be right for that,” said Mthembu. “This was supposed to be a solemn send off for Madiba. All of us had gathered there just for that one purpose, nothing and nothing else. So anybody who came with some political program that wanted to undermine this [memorial service] is totally condemned. All South Africans are condemning that behavior.”
Clottey interview with Jackson Mthembu, ANC spokesman