Ramaphosa tells rowdy Mandela memorial crowd to stay dignified

Intermittently heavy rain kept the audience at Mandela’s memorial service from sitting in the lower tiers, but it was in the upper levels that unrest has been brewing. 

 

One vocal section of the crowd sitting high up in the stand, clad in red Economic Freedom Fighter?? (EFF) shirts, drew the ire of ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. By singing appropriated struggle songs whenever he spoke, and overwhelming the often weak stadium sound system, they forced him into publicly asking for them to calm down.

The request created a mini exodus from the lower levels, with yellow and red-clad people rushing up the walkways to the very top of the stadium to join their respective sides. Marshals quickly stopped this, but the small EFF group was overwhelmed by people in yellow.

Their chants were rapidly drowned out by the singing of ANC groups, and their members left the stands before US President Barack Obama spoke to hold their own march inside the stadium. With little active policing to control people, the crowd at FNB Stadium has been free to go where it wants. The heavy rain has separated the crowd into those with umbrellas that can sit close to the pitch and stage with world leaders, and those who have to stand in the eaves to escape being soaked. It has been an exercise in passive policing. 

Free movement
Groups of chanting and dancing attendees have been allowed to move around the tunnels that connect all the parts of the stadium. After a few circuits each one of these has worn down and returned to its chosen seating area.

With the upper tiers packed because they are covered from the rain, this has been the area of the most noise. The booing has, in general, been reserved for every mention of President Jacob Zuma's name and all his appearances on the two giant screens in the stadium. This has come from the mainly yellow ANC parts of the stadium.

"This president has failed us and yet they celebrate president Mandela as if he would have accepted the way they are running this country," said Thobane Makope. Dressed in red from head to toe, he joined the group of around 100 as it wound its way down stairs and along the corridors of the stadium.  

 

"They are disrespectful of Tata Madiba," chanted the group in pauses between more traditional struggle songs. These drew the participation of passersby in yellow and white ANC shirts, and also derisory shouts about their chances in the next election.

 

As the group circled the corridors inside the stadium, it gradually ran out of energy as members dissipated. 

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is a former acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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