News / Africa

South Africans Escape Work to Watch Mandela Memorial

South Africans Escape Work to Watch Mandela Memoriali
X
December 10, 2013 6:07 PM
Millions of South Africans have been glued to their screens watching the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Johannesburg, Tuesday was not a national holiday - so many people had to try to escape from work to see the ceremony.

Video report by Henry Ridgwell in Johannesburg

As the crowd gathered at FNB Stadium for Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Mandela, many others in Johannesburg mourned from their places of employment, unable to get away for the ceremony. 

In the eastern section of downtown Johannesburg, along bustling Bree Street, shopkeepers hawked Madiba t-shirts, posters and hats, as well as their usual wares.

But there was no break to attend the memorial service for Mandela, which started just before noon.

Mandla Mcunu kept watch as a security guard for local businesses Tuesday morning.  A native of Estcourt, a small city in the Kwazulu-Natal province, he was a lifelong admirer of Mandela.

"I respect Madiba very well. This is the hero, so I respect him… We're feeling the pain also," said Mcunu.

He stood in a doorway out of a pouring rain, watching passers-by, as vendors on either side of him tried to entice customers.  He wanted to go to the stadium, but work came first.

"I wish, but right now I'm at work.  Maybe I can try talk to my boss and then I can go there," he said.

In the IT Corner, a coffee shop the artsy suburb of Melville, the ceremony was projected onto the wall of the cafe, while a handful of people watched from tables and couches, some looking up from their laptops as they worked.

Forty-year-old Ernest Plaatjies, of Johannesburg, watched on a couch, having taken the day off from working.  He'd grown up under apartheid, watching the struggle for freedom.  While he was in college, he would study at a library downtown, and on his way home he remembers hiding to avoid the violence between factions.

"We had the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party fighting against each other for different things.  And you had to get back to get a cab to get home.  And I had to hide in a drain because of the two parties trying to get their points across.  It was very traumatic," he said.

As he watched Tuesday's ceremony, he reflected on what Mandela meant to him and his country.

“I'm just totally in awe with the whole experience," he said. "For me to see him being put to rest finally, it's epic.  Its just one of those feelings that will forever stay in my memory, you know?  Knowing that I'm part of that kind of history.  So, yeah, I'm moved, happy, sad - goose bumps right now.  But I'm glad I'm a South African in his times."

In Johannesburg, where rain storms typically roll through in short bursts, an uncharacteristic day of heavy rains kept many indoors.  Others braved the wet weather to see the event.

  • People cheer as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the FNB Stadium during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the crowd during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • A man holds a placard with an image of Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium during a national memorial service, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela's former wife, listens to speeches during his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • A portrait of Nelson Mandela is seen through a sea of umbrellas during his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • Actress Charlize Theron speaks with musician Bono before the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
  • People sing and dance as they arrive for the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
Martin Macube stood under an umbrella in Nelson Mandela Square in the northern suburb of Sandton, watching U.S. President Barack Obama speak.

Watching world leaders pay tribute to Mandela was a point of pride for the Johannesburg native.

“This man was the greatest man ever in the world.  Hence we are standing here in Madiba Square, as you can see his statue is there.  We are here and we are proud to be called South Africans,” he said.

Thaba Thlala spent his mid-day break taking in the memorial service in Nelson Mandela Square.

“I’m on lunch. I haven’t eaten. I just came here to watch this ceremony," he said. "I just wish they would release me so I can go to the stadium.  But I guess I have to work.  I have to feed my family.  But this one hour means a lot to me.”

Despite such moments of mourning, South Africa's work day went on.

Mandela's body will lie in state Wednesday through Friday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.  He will be laid to rest in his rural ancestral home in Qunu.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid