Harare – President Cyril Ramaphosa was embarrassed with a chorus of jeers and boos at the state funeral of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in Harare on Saturday.
A pastor called on the crowd at Harare’s partially full National Sports Stadium on Saturday to calm down, but they would not stop.
But a resilient Ramaphosa turned the thousands of jeers into Zimbabwean cheers, when he apologised for the violent attacks which had been inflicted on foreign nationals in Gauteng the past two weeks.
He further told mourners that South Africa was committed to the spirit of Mugabe, of uniting Africa.
Speaking over the chorus of boos, Ramaphosa said: “In the past two weeks we have had challenges, some of which was directed at nationals from other countries.
“This has led to the deaths and injuries of other people – some of which were nationals of other countries, but the majority of which were South Africans.
“I stand before you to apologise for what has happened in our country,” said Ramaphosa to resounding cheers from the Zimbabwean mourning crowd.
The president has reportedly cancelled a global trip to deal with the issue of the violent attacks in Gauteng.
On Friday, Ramaphosa met members of the taxi industry in Gauteng to quell tensions after a taxi driver was killed.
On stage in Harare, Ramaphosa appeared to veer from his speech and responded directly to the jeers.
Ramaphosa said: “What has happened in South Africa goes against the unity of the African people that President Mugabe, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela stood for.
“Fellow Zimbabweans, fellow Africans, we are working hard to encourage all our people to embrace people from all African countries,” said Ramaphosa to more cheers.
Ramaphosa was accompanied by several cabinet ministers including Police Minister Bheki Cele, and former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were also in attendence.
Ramaphosa said South Africans were not xenophobic .
“We will work hard to promote social cohesion to live side by side with people from other parts of the continent. This is because we want to do this in the spirit of Mugabe, which he worked hard for all his life,” said Ramaphosa.
Mugabe died in a Singapore hospital on Friday last week, where he had been receiving treatment. He was 95 years old.
His body will be preserved for a private burial at the National Heroes Acre once a new mausoleum has been constructed, which his family members have said would take about a month. The strongman ruled the country for almost four decades before being ousted in 2017.
IOL and ANA