The heavens wept over South Africa today as thousands of common folks and dignitaries alike descended upon a soccer stadium in Johannesburg to pay homage to the modern-day father of freedom, Nelson Mandela. Against a torrent of showers, World leaders including United States President Barack Obama, and other dignitaries and celebrities, braved the elements in a moving commemoration of the life of Nelson Mandela.
"It's a blessing from the ancestors welcoming a son of the soil," remarked the South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, referring to the rainfall. Crowds gathered for the service continued to sing and to dance in the rain in celebration of the life of the former South African President and anti-apartheid hero. The memorial service is being held in the 95,000-seat FNB in Soweto, the Johannesburg stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid fight.
From the US, President Obama leads a Mandela- tribute cast that includes First Lady Michele Obama, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and a possible future President, Hillary Clinton. Other dignitaries attending todays memorial service include British Prime Minister David Cameron, his Deputy Nick Clegg as well as former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major and Labor Party leader Ed Miliband. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also attending as is Raul Castro of Cuba, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Pranab Mukherjee of India, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Li Yuanchao of China. Celebrities include Oprah Winfrey and Bono. South African President Jacob Zuma will deliver the keynote address at the service.
One special attendee has given up his dignitary seat to sit in the upper tiers of the soccer stadium to be closer to Nelson Mandela; that attendee is Andrew Mlangeni, Mandela's friend and fellow former prisoner at Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoner for 27 years. Mlangeni opted to sit as close as possible to the skies to be near his old friend.