Mandela Memorial Springs Up Bizarre Surprises

Jacob Zuma Booed
Jacob Zuma was booed before an audience of millions worldwide

AFRICANGLOBE – Not only will Nelson Mandela’s memorial be remembered for the emotion and energy of the event, but after a quick scan of the papers, online analysis and commentary, it’s clear it will also be remembered for the resounding ‘boos’ that greeted President Jacob Zuma when he walked on stage, appeared on the big screen, and just before his speech.

In front of dozens of world leaders, it must have been embarrassing and maybe a lesson for others that leaders can be held to account in very public forums. There are very contrasting views on whether it was right or fair. Most are saying it was neither the time nor the place for such behaviour. But there are others who, although not proud of it, say that this is exactly what Mandela fought for: The possibility for people to exercise their freedom of expression – you don’t get to choose when people speak and when they’re quiet and you certainly don’t get to choose what they say.

It’s bound to have been a shock to Zuma’s supporters, the African National Congress. They issued an angry response: “None should ever use this solemn moment to disrespect any amongst us, whatever their personal views and grievances,” and added that it was “despicable and unbecoming behaviour”.

As we were digesting the analysis, another bizarre angle to the memorial emerged. Widespread anger from worldwide institutions representing the deaf pointed fingers at the “fake” sign language interpreter on stage for the entirety of the memorial service.  Cara Loening, the director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town said that the signer, who was meant to interpret the speeches by various international dignitaries, was “literally flapping his arms around”.

So we have the booing and the bizarre – both raising questions of a completely different nature. The first are for Zuma and his supporters. How has he arrived at a place where he can be booed in front of the world? And for the organisers, exactly who was the man “trying to swat a few flies away” as Loening put it?


By: Tania Page