Nigel Branken expresses his disappointment at the poor organisation of the Nelson Mandela memorial at the FNB Stadium.
Johannesburg - I am writing to express my disappointment and disbelief at the poor organisation of the Nelson Mandela memorial at the FNB Stadium.
Nelson Mandela deserved better and the nation and world deserved better.
Mandela’s philosophy and example have not only lifted us up as a nation out of our shameful past, he has given the world a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.
His charisma, his values, and his life all speak deeply to us and call us out of mediocrity into greatness.
Mandela was a man of the moment and he knew how to use moments to inspire.
I felt at his memorial, he was dishonoured by the shoddy organisation and planning on the part of the government.
This was our opportunity to shine as a nation and we have missed it.
My main areas of concern are as follows:
* The Rea Vaya buses were not operating from Hillbrow and there was no signage at Hillbrow Rea Vaya station (which was closed) as to where buses could be caught to the stadium.
* There were no security checks upon entry to the stadium. I walked freely to my seat without passing through metal detectors, being searched or any other check. People could have brought in bombs, guns, knives or anything they liked; no one was checking and with all the heads of state, and other dignitaries this meant there was a high risk of something going wrong. How could this not be arranged for such an important event?
* There was a complete lack of marshalling and crowd control in the stadium. It was a free-for-all in the stands. There was no apparent crowd control, with the exception of pleas from ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to stop the people from booing President Jacob Zuma. People stood in the aisles, moved freely around the stadium, and sang and danced while dignitaries were speaking.
* The stadium sound system was almost inaudible. I tried various locations at the stadium and could not hear the speeches. This made the crowd even more restless. How could this be, for an event of this magnitude?
* The catering at the stadium was not adequate or professional. The fridges were not stocked with drinks, food kept running out, there were long waits for service and cooking was taking place on two-plate stoves on the floors (not even on tables). The caterers clearly had little experience. I seriously doubt their catering would have passed health inspections.
* The crowd control as we left was completely inappropriate. There were no police or marshals on site. I went back to Joburg on the Rea Vaya and the crowd in the tunnel through to the buses was dangerously squashed. The bus drivers were not available when people wanted to go back. It was extremely unsafe. Eventually, three or four policemen and two or three Rea Vaya officials were posted at the bus entrance. The bus itself was extremely overcrowded.
* The sign language interpreter was a complete fake. He could not sign and stood right next to every speaker making a mockery of the event.
* The screens were inadequate and the programme mix lacked the professionalism an event of this stature demanded. There could have been more quotes of Mandela on the screens, there could have been footage of him in the build-up to the event. There should have been crowd shots, shots of the family. The lack of programme content contributed to us members of the public feeling like we did not matter and feeling excluded from the event.
* The speakers should have been better introduced. The stadium TV screens should have carried their names and titles.
Surely, there was more than enough time to prepare for this and plans should have been in place?
We have done better in the past.
My sadness at the loss of my personal hero has turned into anger at the disrespect the government has shown to him.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.