Boos, jeers humiliate South Africa's Zuma at Mandela memorial

Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:16am EST
 
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By David Dolan

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma was booed and jeered at a memorial to anti-apartheid legend Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a major public humiliation in front of other world leaders six months before national elections.

The hostile reaction from the thousands-strong unruly crowd erupted as Zuma prepared to address the high-profile ceremony in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium bringing together leaders from around 90 countries.

Zuma, who has ruled Africa's biggest economy since 2009, had been hoping to get a boost from the wave of national emotion triggered by Mandela's death on Thursday, aged 95.

His African National Congress (ANC) government has been facing violent labor unrest and protests over persisting poverty, crime and unemployment. But the ANC is still expected to comfortably win the elections to be held in April or May.

Zuma was booed when he first entered the crowded stadium, and again when he prepared to speak. In contrast, U.S. President Barack Obama received a roaring ovation, and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon were also cheered.

Some in the crowd accompanied the boos for Zuma with thumbs-down gestures and rotating hand movements, the sign for a substitution in a soccer match.

"Mandela had a vision, Mandela lived that vision. But what Zuma speaks, he doesn't live," said Funeka Gingcara-Sithole, 31, reflecting the mood of the Zuma critics in the stadium.

"He should do the honorable thing and resign," she said.   Continued...