Madiba still the favourite

2004-04-28 08:45
Pretoria - If popularity can be measured by applause, former president Nelson Mandela will win hands down, because he received thunderous applause when he arrived for President Thabo Mbeki's inauguration on Tuesday morning.

One woman, however, didn't move a muscle. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was dressed in a shiny peppermint-green outfit with a huge headdress. It was impossible to miss her, and many VIPs stopped to talk to her.

She was seated far from the stage, with a pillar between her and the podium on which Mbeki was inaugurated.

Her designated seat in the audience underlined her fall from grace as former parliamentarian and ex-president of the ANC Women's League, positions she vacated under a cloud of corruption charges.

She stubbornly remained seated while the rest of the audience rose to cheer Mandela.

The lawns, where 40 000 South Africans were seated, reverberated with a praise song, which, loosely translated, said: "Nelson Mandela, there's no one like you."

Apart from the president, three other favourites were the widows of struggle heroes, whom Mbeki referred to as his "mothers": Epainette Mbeki, widow of Govan Mbeki and the president's mother, Adelaide Tambo, widow of Oliver Tambo, and Albertina Sisulu, widow of Walter Sisulu.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi invited the most negative reaction. A part of the crowd booed when he appeared on the big screen.


Pandemonium broke loose when Sepp Blatter, the chairperson of Fifa, the soccer world governing body, and his entourage entered the amphitheatre.

The crowd spontaneously started chanting "2010, 2010". The host for the 2010 World Soccer Tournament will soon be announced.

Overseas leaders who received warm applause were Presidents Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, as well as King Letsie III of Lesotho.

Lukewarm applause greeted Alphonso Jackson, the American minister of housing. His political profile is so low that not even two Washington Post reporters could spot him. Canada's representative was equally unpopular.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was greeted with mixed emotions. Most of the crowd on the lawn and the audience in the amphitheatre watched his arrival without expression, while others greeted him with thunderous applause.


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