Cape Town - The Nelson Mandela Tribute has been hailed as among the best concerts yet staged at Cape Town Stadium.
First it was the fan walk again, but named the remembrance walk, with thousands walking to the Cape Town Stadium to pay tribute to democratic South Africa’s founding president on Wednesday.
No vuvuzelas or painted faces, but many Madiba T-shirts in all shapes, sizes and colours, just as there were people in all shapes, sizes and colours.
Cool drink sellers were doing a brisk trade as thousands packed into the stadium. Some held newspaper posters with Madiba’s smiling face. Some sported ANC T-shirts, and others rosettes bearing Madiba’s face.
As the crowd waited for the performers on stage, music blasted through the speakers, photographs of Madiba flashed on giant screens and there was one Mexican wave after another. Then the deep opening notes of Shosholoza boomed out and the crowd stood up and sang, their raised arms swaying to the beat.
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Marius Fransman said the nation mourned Mandela’s death, but on Wednesday people celebrated his long walk to freedom. Mandela’s memorial service in Gauteng had been attended by 100 heads of state from across the globe.
“That could happen only because Nelson Mandela brings us together in that way,” Fransman said. “We all ask what we want our children to be like. We want them to be like Madiba.”
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille quoted what Mandela said in 1997 when he was given the Freedom of the City: “In Cape Town resides part of the souls of many nations and cultures, priceless threads in the rich diversity of our African nation… it was the people of Cape Town who welcomed me on my first day of freedom.”
South Africans had been adrift for some time. It had taken Madiba’s death to remember what unity and reconciliation meant, De Lille said.
“South Africa today was at a crossroads: would we return to a time of bitterness, racial obsession and greed, or would we choose non-racism, humility and personal commitment to make a better country? I say we must not let the spirit of reconciliation and freedom be buried in Qunu on Sunday.”
Former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar spoke of being born under apartheid in the 1960s and the moment that made him cry – Mandela handing him the Webb Ellis Trophy in 1995: “I will never forget how proud Madiba was and his beautiful smile.”
National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said: “We know where Madiba belonged and that is not important. He was a South African, he belonged to all of us and we will celebrate him together.”
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille began her tribute to Mandela with a song nguMadiba lo abamaziyo abazange bambone (To those who know him, this is Madiba. They never saw him). She praised his nation-building efforts and said those left behind must continue these.
With bongo drum in hand, singer-songwriter Annie Lennox praised Mandela’s dedication to the fight against HIV and Aids.
The event was shown on big screens on the Grand Parade, where 2 000 people gathered. They sang and danced as the Bala Brothers belted out the late Miriam Makeba’s famous song Pata Pata.
“I’m thrilled how this nation can come together because of one man,” said Sharon Jonkers of Woodstock.
Shaheer Aboobaker said: “It is in the spirit of Mandela. It makes me proud to be South African.”