Thousands Gather To Honor Nelson Mandela At Memorial Service

Despite late running trains, traffic, and unrelenting rain, thousands of mourners, including world leaders and celebrities, gathered together at First National Bank (FNB) Stadium in Soweto to remember Nelson Mandela.

1. The service at FNB stadium got off to a late start, thanks to the weather and transport issues. This is what the stadium looked like with about 40 minutes until the memorial was scheduled to start:

2. The weather didn’t let up.

3. But despite being cold and a bit wet from the rain, the crowds continued to cheer, sing, and dance while they waited for all of the delegates to arrive.

4. The rain couldn’t stop people from celebrating the joyous, albeit bittersweet occasion.

Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

5. In attendance at the memorial was an eclectic mix of politicians, world leaders, and celebrities, including Bono and Charlize Theron.

6. As well as former U.K. Prime Minster Tony Blair.

7. And the current U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron.

8. Current South African President Jacob Zuma arrived to a mixture of cheers and boos from the crowd. Many expressed that this wasn’t necessarily appropriate, but commentators noted that this was a political event.

Zuma not getting the warmest of welcomes as he is being walked to his seat. #MandelaMemorial

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Zuma not getting the warmest of welcomes as he is being walked to his seat. #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

Considering Zuma was just booed, how do you think the crowd will react to Mugabe who has just arrived at the stadium.

— Jerusha Sukhdeo (@jerusha_s)

Jerusha Sukhdeo

@jerusha_s

Considering Zuma was just booed, how do you think the crowd will react to Mugabe who has just arrived at the stadium.

/ Via

10. Andrew Mlangeni made a tribute to Mandela after an interfaith prayer, saying: “He touched my heart, my soul, my life and those of millions of South Africans.”

Fellow #Rivonia Trialist #AndrewMlangeni paying tribute to #NelsonMandela #MandelaMemorial

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Fellow #Rivonia Trialist #AndrewMlangeni paying tribute to #NelsonMandela #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

"Madiba is looking down on us now, and is no doubt smiling" - Andrew Mlangeni, former Robben Island prisoner and family friend of Mandela

— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice)

BBC World Service

@bbcworldservice

“Madiba is looking down on us now, and is no doubt smiling” - Andrew Mlangeni, former Robben Island prisoner and family friend of Mandela

/ Via

12. Gen. Thanduxolo Mandela, one of Mandela’s family members, was the next to pay tribute on behalf of the Mandela family. “Tata has gone from before our eyes, but never from our hearts and minds.”

Thanduxolo Mandela: "We have always been mindful that we share Madiba with the rest of South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world."

— David Smith (@SmithInAfrica)

David Smith

@SmithInAfrica

Thanduxolo Mandela: “We have always been mindful that we share Madiba with the rest of South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.”

/ Via

13. Mandela’s grandchildren paid tribute to their grandfather, although their words were barely audible over the applause and cheers for them.

#Manda's grandchildren Mbuso, Andile, Zozuko & Phumla pay tribute to Tata! "We salute you."

— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon)

Jon Williams

@WilliamsJon

#Manda’s grandchildren Mbuso, Andile, Zozuko & Phumla pay tribute to Tata! “We salute you.”

/ Via

14. The program director tried to remind the crowed to “show discipline” and “applaud as someone has spoken” — right when the main screen cut to President Obama waving to the crowd.

Yves Herman / Reuters

15. Despite being an hour or so late to the memorial, Obama’s welcome was one of the warmest. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was then met with a tremendous roar from the crowd.

#UN Sec.Gen #BanKiMoon speaking at the #MandelaMemorial

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

#UN Sec.Gen #BanKiMoon speaking at the #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

16. He called the memorial service “a wondrous display of this rainbow nation.”

17. During a roll call of the delegates in atttendance, the Clintons were shown on the big screen, as well as Robert Mugabe.

#BillClinton and his wife #HillaryClinton at #MandelaMemorial

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

#BillClinton and his wife #HillaryClinton at #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

18. African National Congress Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa pled to those sitting behind the stage to “tone down” their singing as African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took the stage. He was heard muttering, “I hope that helps” as he walked off.

Ramaphosa not very happy with the crowd's disrespect to Zuma! Understandable, after all this is about Madiba! #MandelaMemorial

— Ben de Vos (@Ben_deVos1)

Ben de Vos

@Ben_deVos1

Ramaphosa not very happy with the crowd’s disrespect to Zuma! Understandable, after all this is about Madiba! #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

19. The rain picked up Dlamini-Zuma’s tribute to Mandela went on. The crowd seemed restless, and the singing was louder than Dlamini-Zuma.

MT @zinhlemap: Rowdy crowd behind the main stage. Singing and chanting while Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is addressing the people #Mandela

— City Press Online (@City_Press)

City Press Online

@City_Press

MT @zinhlemap: Rowdy crowd behind the main stage. Singing and chanting while Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is addressing the people #Mandela

/ Via

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma almost inaudible due to mediocre sound system and a restless, noisy crowd. Rain getting heavier too.

— David Smith (@SmithInAfrica)

David Smith

@SmithInAfrica

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma almost inaudible due to mediocre sound system and a restless, noisy crowd. Rain getting heavier too.

/ Via

What is with this crazy crowd? Not memorial service I expected. Wonder what all the world leaders are thinking.

— Erin Conway-Smith (@ejcs)

Erin Conway-Smith

@ejcs

What is with this crazy crowd? Not memorial service I expected. Wonder what all the world leaders are thinking.

/ Via

22. President Obama shook hands with Cuban president Raul Castro on his way down to the stage.

Getty

23. The crowd went absolutely wild as President Obama took the stage.

#Mandela As Obama starts, parts of the crowd start chanting for the big screen to be put back on. SG

— Stephen Grootes (@StephenGrootes)

Stephen Grootes

@StephenGrootes

#Mandela As Obama starts, parts of the crowd start chanting for the big screen to be put back on. SG

/ Via

24. “The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph … your democracy is his cherished legacy.”

Barack #Obama, acclamé par la foule, va prendre la parole - http://t.co/7qaJe2O2u2 #MandelaMemorial

— itele (@itele)

itele

@itele

Barack #Obama, acclamé par la foule, va prendre la parole - http://t.co/7qaJe2O2u2 #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

25. President Obama: “He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood … That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still.”

Obama speaking to the crowd in the pouring rain #MandelaMemorial @Jacanews MV

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Obama speaking to the crowd in the pouring rain #MandelaMemorial @Jacanews MV

/ Via

26. Obama quoted Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech to a huge reaction from the crowd:


“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

27. Obama: “He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.”

#MandelaMemorial Obama: He not only embodied Ubuntu.Taught millions to find that truth within themselves. Not only prisoner, but jailer too

— Karin Labuschagne (@KarinLaB)

Karin Labuschagne

@KarinLaB

#MandelaMemorial Obama: He not only embodied Ubuntu.Taught millions to find that truth within themselves. Not only prisoner, but jailer too

/ Via

28. Obama: “Too many people embrace Madiba’s reconciliation but reject any reforms.”

Photo: President Obama speaking live in South Africa. #RememberingMandela

— NBC News (@NBCNews)

NBC News

@NBCNews

Photo: President Obama speaking live in South Africa. #RememberingMandela

/ Via

29. Obama: “South Africa proves we can change… You, too, can make his life’s work your own.”

#MandelaMemorial Obama: Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it's done. South Africa shows that it is possible

— Karin Labuschagne (@KarinLaB)

Karin Labuschagne

@KarinLaB

#MandelaMemorial Obama: Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it’s done. South Africa shows that it is possible

/ Via

30. Obama: “We will miss him deeply. May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people of South Africa.”

"While I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man" - Obama at #MandelaMemorial

— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking)

BBC Breaking News

@BBCBreaking

“While I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man” - Obama at #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

31. After Obama’s speech, people were reportedly starting to leave the memorial.

Crowds starting to thin in stadium at #MandelaMemorial, not keen on speeches by various world leaders and prospect of address by Jacob Zuma.

— Richard Gaisford (@richardgaisford)

Richard Gaisford

@richardgaisford

Crowds starting to thin in stadium at #MandelaMemorial, not keen on speeches by various world leaders and prospect of address by Jacob Zuma.

/ Via

32. After Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, spoke, China’s Vice President Li Yuanchao took the stage. The rain was still pouring down.

Rain starting to come down a little heavier, hundreds now leaving stadium.. Official program continues #RIPMadiba @eNCAnews

— Cathy Mohlahlana (@CathyMohlahlana)

Cathy Mohlahlana

@CathyMohlahlana

Rain starting to come down a little heavier, hundreds now leaving stadium.. Official program continues #RIPMadiba @eNCAnews

/ Via

33. Hifikepunye Pohamba, president of Namibia, spoke to the (thinning) crowds.

Pohamba speaking at the #MandelaMemorial People have started leaving, others are singing loudly @Jacanews MV

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Pohamba speaking at the #MandelaMemorial People have started leaving, others are singing loudly @Jacanews MV

/ Via

34. Ramaphosa asked the crowd to be respectful once again, “Can we keep silent please?” He added: “Mandela was disciplined, and let us send him off with great discipline”

He engaged the crowds in chants about Mandela in an attempt to let them get their cheers out of their system. He then listed the remaining three presidents who are yet to speak, including the president of India tried to begin his speech. However, Ramaphosa swiftly interrupted him to tell a band playing in the stadium to stop, saying they can play their “wonderful instruments in a little while… we only have three more speakers!”

35. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee: “Indians have long admired him and all that he stood for.”

36. Raul Castro of Cuba called Mandela “the ultimate symbol of dignity … a prophet of unity, peace, and reconciliation.”

Reuters Tv / Reuters

37. Journalists pointed out how empty the stadium was.

It's busy but not full. The last thing I'd have expected. I thought half of Soweto wanted to come. #MandelaMemorial

— Ros Atkins (@BBCRosAtkins)

Ros Atkins

@BBCRosAtkins

It’s busy but not full. The last thing I’d have expected. I thought half of Soweto wanted to come. #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

South African journalist: "It started late, the stadium isn't full and our president was booed. It's an embarrassment for the country."

— David Smith (@SmithInAfrica)

David Smith

@SmithInAfrica

South African journalist: “It started late, the stadium isn’t full and our president was booed. It’s an embarrassment for the country.”

/ Via

39. A praise singer enthusiastically introduced Zuma to the crowd.

Praise singer introduces Pres. JAcob #Zuma #MandelaMemorial

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Praise singer introduces Pres. JAcob #Zuma #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

But the crowd had a mixed reaction to Zuma’s introduction.

41. President Zuma: “His passing has seen an unprecedented outpouring of grief across the world, but that is tinged with celebration. Everyone has had a Mandela moment, when this world icon has touched their lives.”

Reuters Tv / Reuters

42. Zuma: “There is no one like Madiba. He was one of a kind.”

'He paid dearly for his beliefs.' Pres Zuma at #MandelaMemorial

— Ros Atkins (@BBCRosAtkins)

Ros Atkins

@BBCRosAtkins

‘He paid dearly for his beliefs.’ Pres Zuma at #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

43. Zuma announced that the union buildings amphitheater, where Mandela was inaugurated in 1994 and where his body will lie in state, will from today be called the Nelson Mandela Amphitheater.

44. Bishop Ivan Abrahams closed the ceremony with a sermon and the singing of hymns.

Bishop Ivan Abrahams closes the #MandelaMemorial

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Bishop Ivan Abrahams closes the #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

45. And the very end of the service, Desmond Tutu spoke to the crowds.

Tutu thanking God for #Mandela #MandelaMemorial @Jacanews MV

— Jacaranda Newsteam (@JacaNews)

Jacaranda Newsteam

@JacaNews

Tutu thanking God for #Mandela #MandelaMemorial @Jacanews MV

/ Via

46. He told them to keep quiet, and then blessed them.

#Tutu: We promis(ed) God we're going to follow example of Nelson Mandela. I'm blessing you. Keep quiet #MandelaMemorial

— City Press Online (@City_Press)

City Press Online

@City_Press

#Tutu: We promis(ed) God we’re going to follow example of Nelson Mandela. I’m blessing you. Keep quiet #MandelaMemorial

/ Via

Tutu clearly upset upset, says crowd must show the world it's discipled. He manages to get silence #RIPMadiba @eNCAnews

— Cathy Mohlahlana (@CathyMohlahlana)

Cathy Mohlahlana

@CathyMohlahlana

Tutu clearly upset upset, says crowd must show the world it’s discipled. He manages to get silence #RIPMadiba @eNCAnews

/ Via

Mark of a true leader, outside of Obama, Tutu's the only one that has managed to get complete attention of audience #RIPMadiba @eNCAnews

— Cathy Mohlahlana (@CathyMohlahlana)

Cathy Mohlahlana

@CathyMohlahlana

Mark of a true leader, outside of Obama, Tutu’s the only one that has managed to get complete attention of audience #RIPMadiba @eNCAnews

/ Via

49. The memorial service was declared over by Ramaphosa.

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