Winnie remains seated

2004-04-27 21:20
Pretoria - Former president Nelson Mandela received a standing ovation from the guests at President Thabo Mebki's inauguration on Tuesday, but one woman stubbornly kept her seat.

Dressed in an eye-catching green outfit and large headdress, nobody could miss Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and several top officials came to exchange greetings and a few words with her.

Her pariah status as former parliamentarian and ex-leader of the African National Congress' Women's League, plagued by persistent rumours of corruption, was highlighted by the seat allocated to her in the audience.

She was placed far from the stage with a pillar obscuring her view of the podium where Mbeki was inaugurated.

And this is where she remained seated when the rest of the audience in the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings rose to their feet to greet her ex-husband.

However, the more than 40 000 South Africans gathered on the lawns outside the Union Buildings spontaneously burst into a praise song with the roughly translated words: "Nelson Mandela, there is nobody like you".

The South African who got the most negative reaction was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Inkatha Freedom Party leader. Certain sections of the crowd on the lawns jeered loudly every time he appeared on the big screen.

If the reaction of the audience can be used as a barometer of South Africans' opinion of foreigners, the soccer governing body, Fifa, is far more popular than any country or leader.

Pandemonium broke out when Fifa chairperson Sepp Blatter and his entourage entered the amphitheatre.

"2010, 2010," the crowd roared spontaneously in an attempt to convince the delegation to pick South Africa as the host country for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The representative of the United States of America, housing secretary Alphonso Jackson, received very little applause.

Jackson has such a lowly status in the American government that two journalists from the Washington Post could not even identify him.

President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe elicited a mixed reaction.

While a large part of the crowd watched his arrival expressionlessly, while those who did applaud him did so fervently.

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