|Mandela family thankful for the life of a great man, who freed South Africans from bondage
World leaders and joyous South Africans who were singing, gathered early today (South Africa time) to honor Nelson Mandela at a Soweto soccer stadium that was two-thirds full amid cold, driving rain.
A member of the Mandela family, General Thanduxolo Mandela told the crowd the family were thankful for the ``wonderful life" of the great man, adding that they share Madiba with the world.
He added that Mandela freed those in bondage.
Earlier, the crowds twice booed South African President Jacob Zuma, who was to give the keynote address at the service, which started an hour late. Many South Africans are unhappy with Zuma because of state corruption scandals, though his ruling African National Congress, once led by Mandela, is the front-runner ahead of elections next year.
Crowds converged on FNB Stadium in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle that Mandela embodied as a prisoner of white rule for 27 years and then during a peril-fraught transition to the all-race elections that made him president.
Steady rain kept many people away. The 95,000-capacity stadium was filling up during the ceremony, which began at noon local time with the singing of the national anthem.
The mood, though, was celebratory.
Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president who succeeded Mandela, got a rousing cheer as he entered the stands. French President Francois Hollande and his predecessor and political rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, arrived together. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waved and bowed to spectators who sang praise for Mandela, seen by many South Africans as the father of the nation.
“I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him,'' said Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, a postgraduate marketing student who arrived hours before the stadium gates opened. “He was jailed so we could have our freedom.'' --AP/The Standard