CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 11: Artists perform during the 2014 African Nations Championship Opening Ceremony at Cape Town Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Former president Nelson Mandela's praise poet Zolani Mkiva opened the third edition of the African Nations Championship (Chan) tournament, hosted by South Africa, with a rousing welcome in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.

Mandela died in Johannesburg on December 5 and the tournament was set to honour the iconic statesman, who spent 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island, just 17km from the ground which would host the final of the Chan spectacle.

Mkiva's call for unity was followed by a performance by jazz artist Jimmy Dludlu, before the flags of the 16 participating countries were paraded around the Cape Town Stadium.

Bafana Bafana take on Mozambique in the opening encounter, before Nigeria and Mali lock horns in the other group A meeting.

Supporters and members of the public continued to filter into the arena, though numbers were less than impressive.

Officials, however, were expecting more than 20,000 fans to descend on the Green Point arena to witness the opening of the event.

Musical acts The Soil, Mi Casa and Jessica Mbangeni combined with local performers as the tournament opened with song and dance before the action was set to start with a 6pm kick-off. – Sapa