Cape Town - Some walked there. Some cycled. Some were pushed in wheelchairs. Some toddled, clutching their parents’ hands. Some hobbled, leaning on crutches. Some wept solemnly, some sobbed openly. Others smiled, sang and danced.
These were the scenes at the Grand Parade on Sunday where thousands of people, from different walks of life and expressing different emotions, gathered with a common purpose – to bid farewell to Nelson Mandela.
The national funeral service for Mandela took place in Qunu and proceedings were screened live on the Grand Parade.
Scores of residents and visitors, many holding South African flags and wearing T-shirts depicting Mandela’s face, stood around the big screens, sat on the ground or on camping chairs and blankets and watched the service. Countless posters of Mandela at different stages of his life could be seen being carried around.
Sipho Sangweni, originally from Mpumalanga and now living in Melkbosstrand, sat in front of the city hall draped in a South African flag and holding two Mandela posters to his chest.
“Initially I wanted to go to Qunu. Due to logistics I could not. This is what we’re all about: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. This is something special. This is for him,” he said.
Azu Okparaugo, president of the Nigerian Union in the Western Cape, stood with friends and held up a Mandela poster the group printed specially for on Sunday.
“As a community we wanted to show solidarity and celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela... We decided to be part of this historic moment.”
Residents originally from Cameroon also formed a group and walked around the parade, singing their thanks to Mandela for providing them with “a second home” in South Africa.
A homeless man, who declined to be named and who sat under the shade of a tree watching the service alongside police officers, said he was happy he had been given the opportunity to watch the funeral as he had no access to a television.
Hundreds of flowers and tribute messages to Mandela lined a barrier in front of the city hall and throughout on Sunday people added tributes.
As they walked along the barrier lined with tributes, which included teddy bears and candles, some people stopped to photograph their families in front of it.
Some walked slowly along the barrier and pointed items out to their young children. As some noticed particular messages, they started weeping.
Hanifa Parker, who wept as she walked along the barrier, paused before she managed to say she had once been in exile.
She said she had just come back to live in South Africa.
“My children don’t know him,” she said, referring to Mandela.
She was too emotional to say any more.
At several points during the screening of the service, a number of the law enforcement officers stationed on the Grand Parade could no longer contain their emotions and joined in the singing.