Poor turnout for tribute screening

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Stella Buckland adds her flowers to a bank of floral tributes on the Grand Parade, where hundreds of people turned out for an inter-faith service on Saturday night. Picture: Leon Lestrade/Weekend Argus

Cape Town - A chorus of “Madiba is my president” rang out across the Grand Parade, in Cape Town, on Monday, where the special parliamentary sitting for former president Nelson Mandela was being screened.

A group of 30 women sang and danced across the open area, towards the big screen in front of the City Hall.

They formed a circle, sang struggle songs and held up a few pamphlets with a picture of Mandela's beaming face.

Two street performers, dressed in glittering attire, joined in the festivities by linking hands and waltzing around. A woman in the group, 28-year-old Nyanga resident Unathi Rweqana, said they decided to honour Mandela after finishing work at a nearby shopping centre.

Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday night, at the age of 95.

“We love Tata and all the things he has done for us,” said Rweqana.

“I was at home sleeping and I saw everyone on the social networks saying Tata is dead... and I went to switch on the TV. It was just so sad.”

A live screening in Darling Street was poorly attended, with only a handful of people braving the scorching heat. About 50

people sought shelter under palm trees, on the Grand Parade, facing the balcony where Mandela made his first public speech after being released from prison in 1990.

Closer to the hall, a small but steady stream of people placed flowers and mementoes against a steel barrier. A breeze carried the strong aroma of dying flowers.

One of the spectators was Kenyan Tommy Dairy, 31, who first visited South Africa 10 years ago and fell in love with the country.

“I know our father too much and I know his history. We have good memories so we are very pained,” he said.

“Madiba is the father of all of us, everyone in Africa. He has already shown a lot of love and peace for us.”

Solly Mohamed, 71, lit a candle near the barrier and placed colourful streamers and a card around it. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke of his personal encounters with Mandela during apartheid.

“At night, the lawyers would come and take us out and he was a sweet person... He never pushed you away. He would take you and speak to you,” Mohamed said.

“The candle is going to give him light in heaven.”

Graham Molyneux, 41, said he and his wife Lindy had brought their two children to the tribute area so they could appreciate the country's history and understand the sacrifices that had been made for them.

“Under the apartheid era I had lots of privileges and I didn't fully appreciate what he'd done for me and other white people,” he said.

“When he was released, it kind of gave me a whole new perspective on who he was and what being South African meant.”

Their children, nine-year-old Max and six-year-old Emily, had been given the “Long Walk to Freedom” children's book and had also been told other stories about the struggle against apartheid.

Emily said Mandela had been sent to prison after he bombed buildings and later became a president.

“He brought black and white people together.... My friend is Kanye and he's got brown skin.”

About 100m from the screening area, a woman held shirts with Mandela's face, a few South African flags, and posters with a holographic image that switches between Mandela and president Jacob Zuma.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said business in the area had been slow, despite the foot traffic leading to nearby minibus taxi, train and bus ranks.

“I don't know what, but I think the love for uTata just faded away,” she said.


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