Hushed singing could be heard as African National Congress (ANC) stalwart Albertina Sisulu’s coffin was wheeled into the stadium.
Draped in a South African flag, it was wheeled in by members of the South African National Defence Force and the South African Police Service.
Sisulu made her final journey to the stadium from her home in Khumalo Street accompanied by members of uMkhonto weSizwe. The coffin was draped in an ANC flag and replaced by the national flag when the coffin arrived at the stadium.
The official funeral was opened with the singing of the national anthem lead by Soweto-based choir Imilonji Kantu.
Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Magoba opened with a prayer.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete directed the funeral proceedings.
Four of Sisulu’s grandchildren, all composed, delivered an obituary documenting their grandmother’s life.
Sisulu is survived by seven children, 25 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Family members, dignitaries, government officials and ANC heavyweights were all in attendance.
Amongst them were President Jacob Zuma — who was expected to deliver the eulogy — and his wife Nompumelelo Ntuli, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former president Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Michel and ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
Mourners began arriving at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto early on Saturday morning for Sisulu’s funeral.
The ANC Women’s League, dressed in green and black, lead those who had already taken their seats by singing struggle songs, whistling and clapping.
Images of Sisulu’s coffin making its way from her home in Orlando to the stadium could be seen on big screens set up by the podium on the field.
Family members, dignitaries, government officials and ANC representatives slowly arrived at the stadium.
A larger-than-life picture of Sisulu printed on a cloth with the ANC emblem was laid out on the field with the words “nation builder and selfless leader” and “hambe kahle thole!”.
Albertina Sisulu died aged 92 while watching TV at home on the evening of June 2.
In 1994 she was elected to the first democratic Parliament, which she served until retiring four years later. She was a deputy president of the ANC Women’s League, a nurse and a midwife, and took part in the formation of the United Democratic Front, the 1956 anti-pass march to the Union Buildings and the launch of the Freedom Charter.
President Jacob Zuma granted Sisulu an “official funeral category one”, reserved for distinguished persons, specifically designated by the president.
Several memorial services took place during the week with the official memorial being held at the Tshwane City Hall on June 9.
A night vigil was held on Friday at the Holy Cross Church in Soweto.
Free transport was offered to mourners on Saturday by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.
This service was available for commuters travelling from Vereeniging, Larella, Daveyton, Katlehong, Springs, Mabopane and Pienaarspoort.
About 500 buses and seven trains transported people to the funeral on Saturday morning.
Noordgesig residents against blocking funeral route
Most Noordgesig residents who threatened to block the route to Sisulu’s funeral had changed their minds on Saturday morning.
The majority of Noordgesig residents were not in favour of blocking the route of Sisulu’s funeral cortege, the National Association for the Advancement of Affected People (NAAAP) said.
“The vast majority would like to honour the day by not disrupting the funeral procession,” said NAAAP founder Mark Trimble.
Residents threatened to block the route of the funeral procession as part of demonstrations that had been taking place in the area since Wednesday after electricity supply was disrupted.
Power had since been restored, Trimble said. — Sapa