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Stadiums empty for Mandela funeral broadcast

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IOL MANDELA-_1215_11

REUTERS

Women prepare traditional lunch inside a public viewing point near the burial ground of late former president Nelson Mandela ahead of his funeral in Qunu. Picture: Yannis Behrakis

Pretoria -

The Lucas Moripe stadium in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, where the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela was being screened, was virtually empty on Sunday morning.

The stadium was one of the venues across the country where people could watch live footage of the funeral of Mandela in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

The elderly statesman died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday, December 5 at the age of 95.

Two diplomatic cars, two ambulances, and several police cars were parked at the stadium.

A group of Gauteng traffic police officers stood in a circle receiving orders from their seniors.

In the stadium two giant screens were showing proceedings in Qunu.

Noah Maile, of the Siyahlala informal settlement in Atteridgeville, said he only came to the stadium because there was no electricity in the informal settlement.

“Electricity has been connected to our houses but there is no power. It has been like this for four years. I only came here to follow the proceedings because I do not have electricity,” he said.

He brought his nephew, Tumelo, along. The few people present occupied the upper level on the western side to avoid the sun.

“I do not think people will come here. They are watching it from the comfort of their homes.”

He was however impressed that television pictures showed dusty streets in the former president's rural home.

“The streets are dusty. Mandela was honest. He could have used his power to channel development at his home village... He knew about conditions back home and allowed development programmes to follow,” he said.

Two women dressed in the green and black uniform of the ANC Women's League stood as the national anthem was sung in Qunu.

In Cape Town a small group of people gathered at the Grand Parade to watch the state funeral of former president Nelson Mandela on a big screen.

About 40 people braved cool weather and overcast skies to watch the funeral broadcast live from Qunu in the Eastern Cape on the screen in front of the city hall at 8am.

A family wrapped in blankets sat on camping chairs. Others used concrete balls on the parade as seats.

Joggers and cyclists passing by paused to see what was happening.

Police, security officials and emergency medical services were out in full force.

The Parliamentary precinct in Cape Town was also quiet when the funeral started in Qunu on Sunday.

The service is being shown live on a big screen erected outside the National Assembly building.

A few parliamentary staffers were watching, and said they hoped more people would start arriving for the event later in the morning.

In the days leading up to the funeral, Parliament was a hive of activity as thousands visited the precinct to write condolence messages in books opened there.

Parliament street is also lined with a white canvass with hundreds of messages of support for the Mandela family scribbled in blue, red and black.

Shortly before 8am Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg remained empty, except for security guards surrounded by rows of empty seats.

There was very little police activity outside the stadium, and emergency personnel walked around looking for something to do, joking they had the big screen all to themselves.

Orlando Stadium was still virtually empty by 7.45am.

Journalists, government officials and police watched the proceedings at Qunu on a big screen while waiting for the stadium to fill up.

Traffic flowed freely outside the stadium and police maintained a strong presence. - Sapa


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