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Mourners flock to Mandela Houghton home despite rain

Chantelle Benjamin, Sapa

Despite the wet weather, mourners have turned up in droves at former president Nelson Mandela's Houghton home to show their respects.

Flowers and tributes outside Nelson Mandela's Houghton house on the morning of his memorial service. (Chantelle Benjamin, M&G)

The atmosphere at the Houghton home of former president Nelson Mandela was jovial despite the driving rain. Visitors, consisting largely of families, paid their respects at his Johannesburg house on Tuesday while thousands of mourners attended Mandela's official memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto.

Mandela passed away at home on Thursday night at the age of 95.

Children were splashing around in the large puddles of rainwater outside Mandela's house and considering his love of children, who he saw as South Africa's future, he would probably have observed their antics with great amusement.

Mandela may even have treated them to his legendary rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which he loved to use as an ice breaker when speaking to wide-eyed four and five year olds.

Pumeza Horo from Kempton Park brought her three children to the house to pay their respects, as did child minder Vathiswa Kunene, who brought her young charge. They braved the pelting rain, running from their makeshift shelter with one child at a time to place roses outside the house.  

The Mandela family left for FNB Stadium early, no doubt to beat the traffic and meet the heads of state and dignitaries who were heard passing by in motorcades throughout the morning.

Singing in the rain
The crowd, who were anywhere between the ages of about two and 70, broke into song around 10am, dancing to the music under their umbrellas. 

The fire department came to check that media crews were adequately protected from the rain.

Meanwhile, stall operators at Orlando Stadium in Soweto were hopeful mourners would arrive in vast numbers on Tuesday. The stadium was one of the overflow venues in which people would be able to watch the memorial proceedings on big screens.

"I am ready, the food and hot beverages are already prepared. This rain is interfering with our business though," said Dudu Mthombeni.

A plate of pap, meat and a salad cost R30, she said. Tea or coffee cost R8.

She said she was concerned about the pouring rain, but remained hopeful. "This is a big day. South Africans will arrive to bid farewell to Madiba."

Next to her is Aubrey's stall. He specialises in bunny chow and cold drinks.

"I took after my mother. She used to be a hawker outside the stadium; she then got allocated this stall after the stadium was built," he said.

No hawkers were allowed to trade near the stadium. The food stalls faced the Mooki Street station.

The programme at Orlando Stadium was due to start at 8am with music performances. The live crossing to the FNB Stadium, also in Soweto, was set for 10.50am.

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