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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs