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World celebrates Mandela’s life
South African President Jacob Zuma may have announced this week as a period of mourning for its anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela but in the heart and minds of the people in Johannesburg's FNB Stadium yesterday, it was about the celebration of the life of this fallen hero. Not even the non-stop rain and dark skies which covered all of the greater Johannesburg area could dampen the spirits of those in attendance at the memorial ceremony in Mandela’s honour.
One of the thousands who filed out of the stadium after the official service was over said it was indeed a sad day for South Africa but added: “Madiba worked hard for his people. He deserves his rest.” Mandela, who died last Thursday at the age of 95, was praised by all, including the world leaders who attended yesterday’s memorial service and the people in the stadium and on the streets throughout Pretoria.
Apart from Zuma being booed and jeered at the memorial, which may have come with some form of public humiliation due to the presence of other world leaders, the rest of the celebration itself was one which displayed a national and worldwide outpouring of love and admiration for Mandela, the man and the leader.
Several Caribbean leaders, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, represented Caricom, alongside US President Barack Obama, Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some 100-plus other world leaders, who all equally paid their respect to Mandela. Obama, who referred to Mandela as the "last great liberator of the 20th century,” gave words of comfort to the people of South Africa during a speech, for which he received loud cheers from the massive crowd which packed into the stadium.
Also taking to the stage to pay their own oral tributes to Mandela and the people of South Africa were UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Brazil President Dilma Rouseff and Cuban President Raúl Castro. Today, the week of mourning or celebration of Mandela’s life moves to Pretoria’s Union Building, where Mandela's body is to lie in state until Friday.
It is expected that hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, including Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Keith Rowley, will pay their final respects to Mandela at this event, ahead of his funeral on Sunday. Earlier, Persad-Bissessar, Rowley and several other Caricom leaders, who left the Caribbean on Wednesday, all arrived in heavy rains at the OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, yesterday morning.
The scene at the airport could be described as "understandably overwhelmed" as over 100 world leaders and their support staff, media representatives from around the world and simple well-wishers arrived to take part in yesterday’s activity. One protocol officer was seen suddenly bursting into tears and at the same time apologising for her outburst. Unfortunately, the local media personal who travelled with the delegation did not get to attend the memorial because they could not get accreditation.
Throughout the city of Pretoria yesterday, approximately 70 miles from the FNB Stadium, one could see and hear the cities eyes and ears all fixed on the celebrations taking place at the memorial, via big screen televisions, which were strategically set up at many parks.
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