Got up at dawn for Mandela memorial because ‘today we are free’

2013-12-10 09:59

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Nonthuthuzelo Siqendu woke up at 5am this morning, adamant that she would not miss Madiba’s memorial service.

She has been sitting outside Ellis Park Stadium under an eave to avoid the rain as she lauded Madiba for what he had done for her.

“Back in the day, when I first arrived in Joburg, we weren’t allowed in particular areas. When my madam said I could bring my one-year-old baby to live with me, the police came to raid the house and forced me to take my child back to the Transkei. Today, we are free,” she said as she wrapped herself in a check blanket.

Police began patrolling the area and the stadium security, draped in plastic covers, closed off the entrances as people will only be allowed entry at 10am.

On the way to Ellis Park, the driver said: “There’ll never be a funeral like this again.”

He said the buses to FNB Stadium were packed as early as 4am but when City Press travelled on the bus there were only two passengers.

Outside Ellis Park, one of the alternate venues that will be broadcasting the memorial, people were seen sweeping the streets and others opening their hawker stalls at the park-and-ride spot at the Northgate Mall as people queued from 7am.

Dressed in heavy coats and scarves, they chanted and sang struggle song as the bus drove out of the Dome parking lot.

Noma Khuzwayo, who was the first to arrive this morning, said if she could she would have slept at the stadium.

“I couldn’t sleep last night thinking what the mood is going to be like at the FNB Stadium as we bid farewell to our father and celebrate his life. My boss was not comfortable with giving me leave but I was prepared to take unpaid leave should there be a need,” she said.

“I was not going to miss this memorial service for anything. Tata did so much for us and us paying our respects to him is the little we can do,” Khuzwayo said.

Mapaballo Mphafi (31) said bad weather would not stand in her way.

The administration consultant at a bank said she was one of the children in Mfolo in Soweto to go to a multiracial school in 1990 and it was all because of Mandela.

“If he did not fight for us, I would not be living where I live or work in the bank that I work in. I am grateful to Tata Mandela for what he did and that is why I am going to the stadium to pay my respects,” Mphafi said.

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