After eight days of tears, cheers and queues, Nelson Mandela’s send-off culminated in his burial, following a final journey to a village in the Eastern Cape. So what were the key moments?
When Mandela’s widow Graca stood at his open coffin as it lay in state in Pretoria, it was a reminder that for his family, this was not a day to honour a towering political figure or reflect on the end of an era. It was about personal loss. A touching moment followed, according to Kim Sengupta of the London Evening Standard, who wrote: “Mr Mandela’s former wife Winnie looked distraught, supported by her youngest daughter Zindzi, pausing to hold the arms of Grace [Graca] Machel, whom Mr Mandela married later. His grandson and heir Mandla Mandela, who had walked behind the coffin, joined them in a consoling huddle.”
The four-wheeled tribute
A special car number plate to honour the nation’s “father” has brought the driver Vandy Motsepe cheers and applause on the streets of Soweto. His ingenuity and devotion were repeated in many ways across the country – the intricate sand sculptures on Durban seafront and the Mandela images on the cheeks of queuers in Pretoria. On a larger scale, a light installation was projected onto Cape Town’s Table Mountain, while New York’s Empire State Building lit up in South Africa colours.
Three ways to remember Mandela
The awkward encounter
A quick handshake and a few pleasantries were the outcome of the potentially most awkward meeting, between US President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. To some eyes, the confines of Air Force One contained the more explosive mix – Hillary Clinton, George W Bush and Obama. However, photos of Bush 43 showing off his paintings during the return journey suggest otherwise. A case of Mandela diffusing all enmity from beyond the grave? Not quite – the British engaged in no such bonhomie, with Labour politicians taking a different flight from Conservative prime ministers past and present.
The moment for millennial
It’s comfortably the most talked about selfie in history – even if that history is about 170 years longer than you may think. The instant that two leaders leaned into Denmark’s PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt for a self-taken photo was captured by AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt. It provoked a storm of criticism, particularly in the UK media. Many column inches were also devoted to the apparent displeasure of First Lady Michelle Obama. Yet Schmidt said in AFP’s blog that “her stern look was captured by chance” and the trio were merely being human. A tumblr on funeral selfies promptly retired, while Chris Taylor in Mashable suggested it would be churlish to say no to a leader’s photo request.
Getting booed in front of a stadium of 90 world leaders would constitute a bad day for any politician. And it struck a discordant note on a day of celebration and remembrance. So many controversies have enveloped the South African presidency of Jacob Zuma that it would be hard to identify a single reason for the dissatisfaction. The latest scandal concerns the ?12m ($20m) of public money spent upgrading his home in rural Zululand. His spokeswoman told the BBC it was “deeply disturbing” to hear the booing on a day when a nation was paying its respects.
Barack Obama was greeted with cheers, but there were boos for Jacob Zuma
The unexpected story
Thamsanqa Jantjie has been thrust into the spotlight after his signing at the memorial service prompted a torrent of complaints from deaf people in South Africa who said he was making no sense. One said the only words that could be made out were “rocking horse”. In an interview he blamed his errant performance on a schizophrenic episode.
Snaking across the Pretoria Showgrounds, a long line of people waited to board buses to take them to the Union Buildings to see Mandela’s body. “He waited 27 years, what’s a few hours?” was a common sentiment.
But thousands never got to see the body before it was taken away.
In contrast to the tears of the lying-in-state, a celebratory mood greeted the cortege on three successive mornings as the body was taken on a six-mile route along the streets of Pretoria to the Union Buildings. Clutching pictures of the former president, people danced, echoing the atmosphere from the memorial service. As one South African, Tracey Nichols, tweeted: “In South Africa we dance when we are happy, we dance when we are angry, we dance when we are sad. Today we dance for you”
Not many parties could boast Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Charlize Theron and Sir Richard Branson. Even George W Bush was sufficiently starstruck to post a picture of himself with the U2 singer, who sat next to actress Theron during the service.
The close friend
Kathrada spoke movingly about a man he had known for nearly 70 years
If the memorial service was principally for an international audience, then the funeral was for South Africans, said one observer. The tone was more sombre, and fellow Robben Island inmate Ahmed Kathrada spoke for a nation when – his voice cracking with emotion – he finished a very powerful eulogy about a 67-year-old friendship with the words: “When Walter [Sisulu] died, I lost a father and now I have lost a brother. My life is in a void and I don’t know who to turn to.”