Though with kind words for Nelson Mandela and for the speeches given at his tribute, the Daily Mail’s David Jones reports from the scene that the event was “a shambles” and embarrassing for the late leader.
In a scathing column for the Mail, Jones laments the empty stadium, the chronic booing of the event’s host, and the fact that the ceremony — four hours long — began 57 minutes late. “It’s my view that yesterday’s memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela not only failed to reflect the towering achievements of the man,” he writes, “at times, it was a shambolic disgrace to his name.”
Jones notes the stadium, home to the last World Cup, was only two-thirds full. Despite warnings of potentially discordant crowds, “we gazed down upon rows of empty seats” and an “embarrassingly poor” turnout. What’s more, he adds, the crowd that was there required disciplining as it booed the image of current South African President Jacob Zuma, the host of the event, whenever he appeared on the jumbotron. The crowd also cheered Mandela’s second wife, Winnie, more than his third, Jones recounts.
The crowd played a winners-and-losers game with the guests that made the event “almost like being in a Roman amphitheatre” and “frankly distasteful,” writes Jones.
Jones did have some positive things to say about the event. He appreciated Barack Obama’s speech, calling it effective even by the U.S. President’s high standards of rhetoric. Unfortunately, he was only going by what he could hear through a sound system “so appallingly bad” that he could barely understand most of what was going on. He also praised UK Prime Minister David Cameron for being “unfashionably early,” practicing what Cameron called a “a good British habit,” according to Jones.
As this was his first-hand account at the event, Jones actually omits some of the problems subsequently revealed about it. The sign-language interpreter, for example, was an unidentified crasher who was neither communicating in actual sign language nor paid (or even allowed) to be there. There was the infamous “selfie” that Jones mentions only in passing. Then there were the absences that spoke as loudly as the words of those there. The Dalai Lama was unable to obtain a visa to attend the event, for one example; the Israeli government was unable to send a representative, for another.
As the outpourings of grief and reflection continue in light of Mandela’s passing, his public memorial event is now history’s to judge. It seems, if the Daily Mail has any input, that judgment will be harsh.