Emotions run high at CTN Mandela event

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A laser image of late former South African President Nelson Mandela's face and his clan name "Madiba" is projected on the Table Mountain in Cape Town, late on December 10, 2013. Picture: JENNIFER BRUCE

Cape Town -

Tears and cheers filled the Cape Town stadium on Tuesday as a swelling crowd sang the national anthem during a memorial for former president Nelson Mandela.

Thousands of people waved the national flag while others battled to hold tears back.

The city's official memorial, titled “Nelson Mandela: a life celebrated”, was expected to draw 53 000 people and the stadium was three-quarters full by 5pm.

A variety of musical acts were planned for the evening, including Scottish singer and philanthropist Annie Lennox and local bands Freshlyground and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Popular local hits, such as “Jabulani” and “Asimbonanga”, bounced off the stadium's walls as the crowd responded to artists' calls to raise their voices.

A notice was flashed on one screen informing deaf concert-goers of a special room where they would have speech interpreted.

Mandela's face smiled down from several large television screens above the masses.

One attendant, Athlone resident Bernadette Simpson, said Mandela's loss had been as painful as the loss of her father four years ago.

She had drawn political inspiration from him when she was a student leader in Bridgetown, Athlone, in the Eighties.

As an 18-year-old matric pupil at the time, the police falsely arrested her for burning a bus and she spent two days in jail before the case was withdrawn.

“I know what it's like a little bit to be sitting in a van, looking out of that window and seeing everybody free,” she said.

“I noticed people go to work and you have to sit in this prison, not that you did anything but just for what you believe in.” Simpson said she was treated like a criminal and did not eat or drink in that time because she was suspicious of police.

“Psychologically and emotionally, I was prepared to die because that is just how it was going to be.” - Sapa

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