Mandela night vigil resembles political rally

2013-06-27 20:30

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Thousands of ANC supporters descended on the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital this evening to pray for former president Nelson Mandela’s speedy recovery.

Tshwane mayor Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa and the ANC regional leadership led ANC supporters in song, dance and prayer as the night vigil largely resembled a political rally.

Over 30 buses started arriving from around 4pm this afternoon, ferrying supporters who wore ANC colours, waving the party’s flag and singing struggle songs associated with he 94-year-old, who is in a critical but stable condition in the hospital.

Said Ramokgopa: “We’re here to support the Mandela family through this difficult time. The first three leaders of the ANC, John Dube, Pixley ka Seme and Sol Plaatje were church people. The ANC was formed in a church,” he said in Sepedi, to applause from the crowd.

He said here was a “special” relationship between the ANC and churches and that the public should not be surprised that the party was praying for Mandela.

He thanked the Mandela family “for giving us Madiba so that he can come and work for us”.

“Peace be with Madiba, peace be with you,” he said, before handing over the podium to a host of pastors.

Most ANC supporters said they were not concerned about perceptions that their behaviour would be viewed as electioneering, and dismissed criticism that the party was attempting to gain political traction from Mandela’s hospitalisation ahead of next year’s elections.

Traffic grounded to a halt as buses, with supporters hanging from windows, used the busy Park Street, adjacent to the hospital, to drop off the supporters who marched up and down Celliers Street before gathering at the nearby lawns of the Pretoria Art Museum.

The ANC leadership, including City of Tshwane chief whip Jabu Mabona, addressed throngs of ANC members, mostly from Soshanguve, Ga-Rankuwa, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville, while perched on a stage erected at the back of a truck.

The truck was decorated in ANC posters with party president Jacob Zuma’s image.

They sang gospel songs and made it clear that Mandela was an ANC man, a statement which was reiterated by his eldest daughter, Makaziwe, in an interview televised earlier in the day.

Metro police had their hands full trying to direct traffic, which was still moving slowly past the hospital three hours later.

Children, the elderly and various interests groups, including Hare Krishna devotees, were still gathered at the entrance.

In a statement released earlier in the evening, Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, said he visited the world icon in hospital but expressed disappointment at the rumours about Madiba’s health.

He reiterated Zuma’s statement that Mandela’s condition, though still critical, had improved overnight.

Zuma visited Mandela for about 45 minutes earlier in the day, his second visit in 24 hours.

Said Mandla Mandela: “Every improvement in my grandfather’s health is cause for celebration for many of us.”

He lashed the media for reporting on rumours and appealed to the nation to take the cue on Mandela’s health from the Presidency.

“I call upon those responsible to desist from spreading mischievous rumours about Madiba’s state of health.

“Our government has been keeping all of us informed in this regard and there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information they provide to the public,” said Mandla.

He thanked the ANC, the government and the doctors who are looking after Mandela for their continued support.

“At the end of the day my grandfather’s fate, like that of everyone else, lies with God and our ancestors. However, many of us will continue to pray and hope for his recovery,” said Mandla.

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