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Ambivalent responses to Madiba memorial

While some expected an emotive event, many say the memorial was more of a political rally.

There has been a mixed response to the Nelson Mandela memorial held at FNB Stadium on 10 December. Picture: Department of Communications via Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - There has been a mixed response to yesterday's memorial at FNB Stadium which was held in honour of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Madiba passed away last week at the age of 95 after a long struggle with a recurring lung infection.

Yesterday, thousands of people braved the rain and joined around 90 heads of state, celebrities and dignitaries to honour the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The memorial has been billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapkasa arrives ahead of the Nelson Mandela memorial at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 10 December. Picture: @PresRajapaksa via twitter

US President Barack Obama greets Cuban President Raul Castro ahead of his speech at FNB during Nelson Mandela's memorial on 10 December 2013. Picture: @lordrich6 via twitter

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu attended the Nelson Mandela memorial at FNB Stadium. Picture: @KetyDC via twitter

Former US President George W Bush at the Nelson Mandela memorial at FNB Stadium. Picture: @ClaysonMonyela

Bill Clinton and his family and George W Bush were among the dignitaries to attend the memorial service of the late Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium on 10 December 2013. Picture: Herman Verwey/Mandela Pool.

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas (C) arriving with a North African Arab delegation at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 10 December, 2013. Picture: Picture: GCIS.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila and his wife arriving at FNB Stadium ahead of Nelson Mandela's memorial on 10 December. Picture: GCIS.

During his opening address, ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said Madiba would have wanted to be sent off in rainy weather.

"In our tradition, when it rains when you are buried, it means your Gods are welcoming you to heaven."

While some expected an emotive event, many said it turned out to be more of a political rally.

Proceedings were also marred by crowds heckling and booing President Jacob Zuma while cheering for US President Barack Obama and former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela embraced Mandela's widow Graca Machel, a heartfelt moment between two women who both loved Madiba.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Graca Machel at the FNB Stadium for Nelson Mandela's memorial service on 10 December 2013. Picture: AFP.

And while there were a few tears from members of the public, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly celebratory.

Crowds sing as the rain pours down during the Nelson Mandela memorial at FNB Stadium on 10 December 2013. Picture: Herman Verwey/Mandela Pool.

South Africans on their way to the FNB Stadium where a memorial service for Nelson Mandela was held on 10 December 2013. Picture: @FatzSimjee via Twitter.

A man holds a Mandela poster as he chants at FNB Stadium during a memorial on 10 December 2013. Picture: Sumayya Samsoodien/Mandela Pool

The crowd at the FNB Stadium in Soweto where thousands gathered to wish Madiba farewell on 10 December 2013. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

The crowd braved the rain for the Nelson Mandela memorial at the FNB Stadium on 10 December 2013 Picture: Werner Beukes/Sapa/Mandela Pool.

But when the crowds booed President Zuma, the mood changed.

ZUMA BOOED, HECKLED

The booing continued whenever Zuma appeared on the big screen and at one point, the screen was turned off and MC and ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa asked people to show discipline.

When Zuma spoke, booing continued but some people also cheered him on.

President Jacob Zuma greets the crowds ahead of his keynote address at FNB Stadium during the Nelson Mandela memorial on 10 December 2013. Picture: Herman Verwey/Mandela Pool.

Hundreds of people left the stadium before the memorial was over and most of them after President Obama spoke.

South Africans wanted to make a point, possibly about their dissatisfaction with Zuma's government.

Towards the end of the service, when Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu took to the stage, he reprimanded the crowd and ordered mourners to show the world that South Africans are disciplined.

"We want to say thank you to that world, but you must show the world that we are disciplined and so I want to hear a pin drop."

He called for a moment of silence and prayer, blessed the mourners and prayed for the nation to follow in Madiba's footstep

Meanwhile, the ANC says what happened what a terrible disservice to the Mandela family.

Zuma may now want to find out if this was a coordinated political attack.

RAPTUROUS APPLAUSE FOR OBAMA

Obama's tribute to Mandela been widely hailed as a reminder of his undeniable ability to stir the spirit.

US President Barack Obama speaks at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, 10 December 2013. Picture: Herman Verwey/Mandela Pool.

Although he arrived late, he received the warmest welcome from the crowd.

He delivered a personal message about a man who inspired his own journey into politics.

"And while I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man. He speaks to what's best inside us."

He called Mandela the greatest liberator of the 20th century.

"What a magnificent soul he was. We will miss him deeply. May god bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May god bless the people of South Africa."

Obama's speech enchanted and captivated the restless crowd and may go down in history as one of his most powerful addresses.

He compared to Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and called on nations across the globe to continue Madiba's work.

He also quoted from Mandela's legendary Rivonia Trial speech and spoke about his spirit of ubuntu.