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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora