World Cup party on pause as Mandela family mourns
South Africa`s World Cup celebration took a sombre turn Thursday as Nelson Mandela attended the funeral of his great-granddaughter and the host country reeled from a stunning defeat.
Johannesburg: South Africa`s World Cup celebration took a sombre turn Thursday as Nelson Mandela attended the funeral of his great-granddaughter and the host country reeled from a stunning defeat.
South Africa paused from its World Cup festivities to mourn with the Mandela family as hundreds gathered at 13-year-old Zenani Mandela`s school for the public funeral following a private burial.
At 91, the increasingly frail Mandela made a rare public appearance at the front of the service, after cancelling a scheduled appearance at the World Cup opening ceremony following Zenani`s death in a car crash on the eve of kick-off.
The funeral came as South African fans took on board a 3-0 thrashing from Uruguay which has clouded the host`s future in Africa`s first World Cup.
South Africa`s World Cup chief Danny Jordaan and the government urged the nation to rally behind the Bafana Bafana team and to continue being good hosts.
"We are still in the initial stages of the tournament. And this is not the time to pull back, regardless of the disappointment we may feel after Bafana Bafana?s loss," government spokesman Themba Maseko said in a statement.
Scores of South Africans have flocked to festive fan parks and public viewing areas to cheer during matches with Maseko calling for this to continue irrespective of the team`s performance.
"The success of the tournament is dependent on our hospitality as a host nation. After all, this is still our World Cup. It is upon us to make it a success."
The loss heightened fears that South Africa would become the first World Cup host country in tournament history not to make it out of the first round, with headlines lamenting "Agony", "Now we need a miracle" and "Things fall apart".
But Jordaan called on fans to unite behind the team, saying its Group A final match against France on June 22 would be critical.
"I think you will see the spirit of South Africans," said Jordaan.
He said supporters will hope again and return to blowing vuvuzelas, the controversial trumpets whose loud buzz has been the trademark of the tournament.
"For first time in this tournament, the vuvuzelas were silent yesterday. This nation was silent, this is significant," Jordaan said.
After winning its World Cup bid six years ago, South Africa has fended off accusations about its ability to host the tournament with problems mounting after a triumphant opening.
Police have taken over security at four stadiums after strikes by stewards. Some 1,000 fans at the Netherlands and Denmark match were also affected when bus drivers went on strike after dropping them off.
Jordaan said he was satisfied that the situation was under control.
"We just had another meeting with police yesterday and we`re satisfied everything is in place," he said.
As cold wintery weather continued to hit the country, motorists were warned on Thursday to take care on roads. Heavy snowfalls saw closures in the Western and Eastern Cape, while ice shut two lanes on a major Johannesburg route.
The government has pushed fans to avoid road congestion by using public transport, which received a 40-billion-rand (5.3-billion-dollar, 4.3-billion-euro) upgrade ahead of the tournament.
But a power outage that crippled commuter rail locomotives stranded 2,000 World Cup fans until early Thursday morning after trains were forced to switch from electric to steam locomotives.
Authorities were also accused of scoring an own goal by charging two Dutch women with ambush marketing over a stunt featuring dozens of fans wearing orange mini-dresses.
And in a march on Wednesday, campaigners took on the government over the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on the tournament when some 40 percent of the population live on less than two dollars a day.