The atmosphere in the stadium for Nelson Mandela’s memorial was electric. There was so much energy and emotion I could feel it reverberating off everyone I spoke to outside. The incessant rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of those inside or seeking shelter under the seating area.
For hours, a group of a hundred or so marched and sang around the interior of the stadium. I’m not sure any of them saw any of the speeches but they obviously didn’t care – this wasn’t about Barack Obama or Jacob Zuma or Mr President of Anywhere. It was about them, and the man they believed in before anybody else.
A security guard called Edward Lincoln told me the rain was a good omen, that it was washing away apartheid and that the heavens and ancestors across Africa were mourning Madiba.
A woman called Sasa, who I met on Vilakazi street after the memorial, told me that the people were singing so loudly so that they could drown out their sorrow.
A young boy called Nhlanhla said he wanted to be like Mandela, and when I asked him how he said he would “be good and go to school”. I think the former president would have been pleased to hear that.
Everyone I spoke to was proud and grateful of what South Africa and Mandela achieved, but each was also cognizant that a lot more needs to be done. There is still poverty and gaping inequality – but now, truly, the baton has been passed to the current and the next generation. It is their’s to carry.