A bad day for Jacob Boo Boo

I was also late for Nelson Mandela’s funeral: in fact, I arrived shortly before Barack Obama. But that’s ok for two reasons – I had been wading through exam results at work, and I’m not a famous president. Eventually flying into the lounge trailing tablets, documents and colleagues, I was a little discombobulated to find the Hedonist watching a B-grade TV series on his laptop, and the Hulk, the Smartass and the Big Daddy engrossed in Top Gear.
“Boys!” I shrieked. “Change the channel! I’m so embarrassed!” Little did I know how embarrassed I would feel a couple of hours later.
We immediately switched over to the FNB stadium. It was pouring with rain and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was pretty inaudible, partly because of what was clearly a mediocre sound system, and partly because the crowd was obviously getting bored.
Then American gospel musician Kirk Frankland took the stage. Or, rather, took the field, trailed by some poor bloke with an umbrella desperately trying to keep up. “Why aren’t they using South African musicians?” asked the Smartass. No one had an answer. “I’m sure I’ve seen him before somewhere, though,” said the Sassy Editor thoughtfully. “Who will be a witness?” screamed Kirkland, and the crowd stamped and cheered in appreciation. The cameraman clearly had an answer: he immediately focussed in on a large gentleman with an even larger automatic rifle. “That’s it!” said Sassy Editor cheerfully. “He was on Oprah, quite a while ago, talking about how he gave up his porn addiction!”
Our American theme continued with the arrival of Obama under an Avis umbrella, just in the nick of time. “I bet he was waiting outside in his car,” muttered the Smartass. “I would have.” Obama, always a brilliant orator, delivered a passionate valediction and didn’t seem at all phased by the steady trickle of departing mourners. He reminded us of the leadership and humility of Mandela, and the need for those remaining to continue to engage with the inequities inherent in society. “Men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs,” he said, as a few other heads of state squirmed uncomfortably in their damp seats. Golly, I thought, what about Guantanamo Bay? But then I remembered that politicians’ promises are soon forgotten, if they win the hearts and minds of those who count.
And so the service ran on. The media contingent, braving ever-increasing inclement weather, produced a continuous flood of despondent tweets and Facebook posts. The crowd’s growing restlessness developed into jeers and boos; many toyi-toyied on the spot, although that may have been an attempt to warm up. “I bet most of those people are only there to get out of work,” muttered the Exploited Postgrad. “We weren’t even given the day off!”
For those who did have the day off, they clearly wanted to use it once cold and boredom set in. The trickle of departing mourners flowed into a flood. Cyril Ramaphosa asked the comrades please to be patient and not leave, urging them to show the same discipline as would have Madiba, but he could neither plug the stream nor the banter: he eventually had to interrupt Pranab Mukherjee to tell a band to shut up. They left.
More technical problems surfaced when the Cuban translator’s mike broke. She carried on with poise. Unfortunately, the on-stage pretend sign language bloke didn’t break, but he, too, showed immense poise with his knacky hand flapping, resulting in confused and angered deaf people all over the world.
The crowd left in the stadium had cheered Ramaphosa. They had also cheered former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk. When Jacob Zuma took the stage, the crowd booed. I almost felt sorry for him, until South Africa’s head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, urged journalists to ignore the boos: “Let’s not reward the small minded group that came here with the intention to “embarrass” SA by turning them into a story”, he tweeted. (Those in charge at the SABC clearly agreed – they banned all news footage showing the ANC in a bad light).
Archbishop Desmond Tutu chastised the babel once more. Those who had remained to the bitter end then trickled away, taking the boos, brollies and bad music with them into the afternoon, while above those heavy rain clouds remained.

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