Durban - Hundreds of mourners including church groups gathered at Durban’s Moses Mabhida People’s Park to watch a live broadcast of Nelson Mandela’s state funeral on Sunday.
The young and the old came in numbers, some with camp chairs and blankets, to settle in front of the big screen.
Many wore yellow ANC T-shirts with Mandela’s image.
A threatened picket at the screening by the
Westboro Baptist Church – who said the attention that had been lavished on Mandela bordered on idolatory – did not materialise. Instead other religious bodies came to remember the leader, particularly his love and teachings of forgiveness.
Bishop Michael Vorster, of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Natal District, led the final prayers.
“The values of Madiba are in you. We have loved our leader, we have loved our father. But now he is in eternal peace.
“I am here to be in the presence of other people in mourning and also being with people to celebrate the life of our beloved Madiba. It is important for the church to be with people in their time of need,” he said.
Mary-Jane Thusini, of the Nazareth Baptist Church, said Mandela attended the funeral of the church’s second prophet, Amos Khula Shembe, instead of going to a relative’s funeral in the Eastern Cape in 1995.
Yesterday was an opportunity for the church to reciprocate.
“Today we were supposed to hold our annual 14-day Sunday service, but we chose to come here to watch his funeral. I was so humbled when he was in our church and I have no doubt he is in heaven,” said Thusini.
Cuthbert Mukwishu, of the Gospel of God Church International, whose members were mostly from Zimbabwe, said they had gathered to mourn their “president”.
Siphiwe Chiliza, who was also at People’s Park, said he could have watched the funeral at home, but preferred to join other mourners. “I wanted to meet with other people to share this moment with mutual respect,” said Chiliza.
On Saturday, a few thousand people held a night vigil at the park with live entertainment. Some danced late into the night.
By on Sunday morning those still at the venue, were fighting off sleep.
Paramedics, SAPS and metro police were on standby, while nurses manned tables in two tents, checking the blood pressure of those exhausted by the heat or from the night vigil.
For others the occasion represented a business opportunity as they sold T-shirts, hats, badges and earrings, all with Mandela’s image.
At the public viewing area outside the King Goodwill Zwelithini stadium in Umlazi, a dozen people watched the big screen. About 100 watched the funeral at the city hall.