JOHANNESBURG (AP) — At Nelson Mandela’s memorial, the crowd applauded dignitaries and even cheered the last apartheid-era president. But spectators booed South African leader Jacob Zuma, embarrassing him on an international stage and reflecting challenges that the ruling party, once led by Mandela, faces ahead of elections next year.
“Can we please be disciplined?” a vexed Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress, said Tuesday to the stadium crowd after jeers erupted when a giant video screen showed Zuma, seated among heads of state paying tribute to Mandela. The anti-apartheid leader died Dec. 5.
Corruption scandals have stained Zuma and the ANC, the liberation movement during apartheid that casts itself as the standard-bearer of Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation and inclusiveness. Crime, economic inequality and other social challenges have added to public discontent, two decades after the end of apartheid.
“We know he’s taking the government’s money,” said Mmule Matlhabane, a 42-year-old unemployed man, said of Zuma.
Simon Maphosa, a 45-year-old multimedia designer, said people were booing because they felt the ANC had failed to rein in their man.
“They are trying to say to the party, ‘You have to control this guy,'” Maphosa said.
In the days before Mandela’s death, South African media were filled with reports on the alleged use of more than $23 million in taxpayer money for construction at Zuma’s family compound.
Earlier this year, a chartered plane carrying about 200 guests from India to a lavish family wedding was allowed to land at a South African air force base in violation of security protocols. Zuma has connections to the family.
Prof. David Glaser, head of political studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said the booing partly reflects discontent within the ANC over its leadership. As ANC leader, Zuma is likely to be the party’s candidate for the presidency.
Glaser also said there is more opposition to Zuma in the populous Gauteng province, which includes the major cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. A new tolling system on area highways has deepened discontent.
The South African Press Association reported that when Zuma arrived for the Mandela memorial, some people made a rolling hand signal, usually a gesture that political change is wanted. Opposition parties are not expected to dislodge the ANC at the next elections, but they could increase their vote share.
Officials at the Mandela memorial tried to head off the booing, switching off the video screen after crowds jeered whenever Zuma’s face appeared there. There were whistles as he reached the podium to give his keynote speech, and a choir launched into a song, possibly to drown out the heckling.
In contrast, the crowd warmly welcomed F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president who released Mandela from jail after 27 years and negotiated the white minority out of power; former President Thabo Mbeki, a former rival of Zuma within the ruling party; and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former wife of Zuma who heads the African Union Commission.
U.S. President Barack Obama got the most enthusiastic reception. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe got cheers, too.
Zuma, an anti-apartheid activist, was imprisoned for a decade on Robben Island, the same prison where Mandela was held.
He had legal problems over corruption allegations while serving in government before he became president. He was also acquitted of rape charges in 2006.
30 Best Nelson Mandela Quotes
30 photos Launch gallery
1. "It always seems impossible until it is done. "-Nelson Mandela
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2. "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination." -Nelson Mandela
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3. "Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose." -Nelson Mandela
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4. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela
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5. "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." -Nelson Mandela
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6. "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mind cannot be separated." -Nelson Mandela
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7. "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." -Nelson Mandela
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8. "In my country we go to prison first and then become President." -Nelson Mandela
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9. "Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement." -Nelson Mandela
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10. "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." -Nelson Mandela
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11. "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."-Nelson Mandela
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12. "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness & Forgiveness."-Nelson Mandela
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13. "Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all."- Nelson Mandela
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14. "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."-Nelson Mandela
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15. "I have retired, but if there's anything that would kill me is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do. "-Nelson Mandela
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16. "I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people."-Nelson Mandela
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17. "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another."-Nelson Mandela
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18. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."-Nelson Mandela
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19. "Give a child love, laughter and peace, not AIDS."-Nelson Mandela
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20. "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."-Nelson Mandela
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21. "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."-Nelson Mandela
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22. "I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses."-Nelson Mandela
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23. "I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself."-Nelson Mandela
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24. "We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."-Nelson Mandela
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25. "I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man."-Nelson Mandela
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26. "There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."-Nelson Mandela
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27. "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."- Nelson Mandela
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28. "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. "-Nelson Mandela
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29. "Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future."-Nelson Mandela
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30. "Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace. "-Nelson Mandela
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