“[These prayer services] will go a long way to heal our country,” said Zuma. A woman in a yellow and black head-dress and outfit chuckled when “Oh Yes!” was repeatedly shouted from the pews in response to Zuma’s speech.
ANC MP and Mandela’s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela tilted her head, adorned in a black turban, as she listened to Zuma, her facial expression sombre and unchanging throughout the service.
Various Mandela family members and government officials were at the church, as was TV personality Oprah Winfrey’s partner Stedman Graham.
Zuma said Mandela’s death was an “unprecedented loss” for the country. South Africans should pray to remember the values of freedom, peace, forgiveness, justice and caring Mandela fought and stood for.
“He preached and practised reconciliation.”
Zuma gave the example that when being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Mandela walked together with “those who were fighting yesterday [and now] they were uniting together. Mandela distinguished himself for good things and good things only,” said Zuma.
During his speech the children seated at the front of the church began fidgeting and started playing with each other. One started sucking on a dummy-shaped sweet.
The minister commented on their presence, and the babies who were baptised earlier, saying: “We received the babies and the small children; as we look into the future we carry with us the hope that all will be well.”
Zuma smiled and gave a small laugh as the minister roused the churchgoers with his sermon. The band played after his talk and members of the congregation danced, sang, and hugged.