South Africa buries Mandela, its greatest son, at service attended by 5,000 people

  • South Africa’s first black president is laid to rest at his ancestral home in Qunu on tenth day of national mourning
  • Thousands lined the streets to watch his funeral cortège as it made its way to the tiny hamlet in Eastern Cape
  • The anti-apartheid icon died at his Johannesburg home on December 5 at the age of 95 after long battle with illness
  • Dignitaries descend on his small village, including Prince Charles, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Oprah Winfrey
  • Current president Jacob Zuma said Mandela was ‘a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope’
  • ‘Today marks the end of extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago, the long walk to freedom has ended’, he said
  • Nandi Mandela said: ‘Go well, Madiba. Go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race’
  • Funeral overruns by 105 minutes, meaning the tribal tradition that members are buried at noon was missed
  • The South African flag draped on his coffin was handed to his widow Graca before body was lowered into the ground
  • Seats were filled during the state funeral service as soldiers were moved in to occupy empty chairs

Nelson Mandela has today been buried in the remote village where the anti-apartheid icon grew up after his four-hour state funeral this morning.

South Africa’s first black President died in his Johannesburg home on December 5, at the age of 95 after a long battle with illness and he was laid to rest in his grave in Qunu in Eastern Cape province.

Troops lined the route up to the hillside as Mandela was carried on a gun carriage to the private burial on his family’s estate.

As his body was placed on the grave the South African flag on the coffin was removed and handed to Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, who was comforted by his ex-wife Winnie Mandela.

A fly-past then followed accompanied by a 21-gun salute and a solitary trumpeter played the Last Post while his body was lowered into the ground.

As he was buried a military chaplain said: ‘Yours was truly a long walk to freedom, and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom, in the bosom of your maker.’

His funeral was also marked by his Xhosa tribe who will have slaughtered an ox so guests could drink its blood from a communal bowl.

But it is understood dignitaries such as Prince Charles were probably offered the animal’s meat to eat instead after it was cooked on an open fire.

Mandela’s family also talked to him up until he lowered into the earth and will have said ‘Madiba, we are now burying you,’ a tradition followed so the souls of the dead know where they are going.

Goodbye to an icon: Nelson Mandela's coffin is slowly lowered into the ground in the hills close to where he grew up at the small, private burial today in Qunu as military salute and mourners watch the poignant momentGoodbye to an icon: Nelson Mandela’s coffin is slowly lowered into the ground in the hills close to where he grew up at the small, private burial today in Qunu as military salute and mourners watch the poignant moment

 

Poignant: Nelson Mandela's coffin was carried to his grave and then the flag of the country he loved so ardently was removed and handed to his widow Graca MachelPoignant: Nelson Mandela’s coffin was carried to his grave and then the flag of the country he loved so ardently was removed and handed to his widow Graca Machel

 

United in grief: Mandela's widow Graca Michel and his ex-wife Winnie Mandela tearfully comforted one another as they sat next to president Jacob Zuma and Mandela's grandson Mandla as he was laid to restUnited in grief: Mandela’s widow Graca Michel and his ex-wife Winnie Mandela tearfully comforted one another as they sat next to president Jacob Zuma and Mandela’s grandson Mandla as he was laid to rest
Special tribute: The South African air force fly over Mandela's grave in the hills of Qunu where he grew up, which was accompanied by a 21-gun saluteSpecial tribute: The South African air force fly over Mandela’s grave in the hills of Qunu where he grew up, which was accompanied by a 21-gun salute
A nation in mourning: Three helicopters carrying South African flags fly over the burial site today as a much smaller crowd of mourners watched the great statesman laid to rest after ten days of official mourningA nation in mourning: Three helicopters carrying South African flags fly over the burial site today as a much smaller crowd of mourners watched the great statesman laid to rest after ten days of official mourning
Air force tribute: A squadron of South African jets flew across the skies above the Eastern Cape hills where Mandela spent his formative yearsAir force tribute: A squadron of South African jets flew across the skies above the Eastern Cape hills where Mandela spent his formative years
Burial: The military carry Mandela's body along the pathway to the area where South Africa's beloved son's burial site in QunoBurial: The military carry Mandela’s body along the pathway to the area where South Africa’s beloved son’s burial site in Qunu
Procession: After the funeral South Africa's military took over and followed Mandela's coffin up the hill to his family plot where he was buried Procession: After the funeral South Africa’s military took over and followed Mandela’s coffin up the hill to his family plot where he was buried

 

Final journey: The coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela is carried by military personnel at the end of his funeral service in his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern CapeFinal journey: The coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela is carried by military personnel at the end of his funeral service in his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape

Earlier she arrived at the state ceremony ahead of her husband to honour the tradition of being home to receive his body in a room where his portrait stood above a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his remarkable life.

Around 5,000 guests, including his ex-wife Winnie, the Prince of Wales, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and the American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, were also at the service.

But the ceremony overran by nearly two hours as political figures gave a series of extended eulogies, meaning that his tribe’s tradition that burials should be at noon ‘when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest’ had to change.

The current leader of his beloved country, Jacob Zuma, told mourners Madiba, as he was adoringly called, was ‘a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.

‘Today marks the end of extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago, the long walk to freedom has ended’.

‘When people see goodness in a person they respond by reflecting goodnesss back at that person and on their fellow man and women,’ Zuma said.

‘Thank you for being everything we wanted in a leader during a difficult period in our lives. Your long walk to freedom has ended but in a physical sense our journey continues.

‘We have to take your legacy forward and in doing so we will continue taking lessons from your very rich and extraordinary life.

Gathered to remember Madiba: South Africa's president Jacob Zuma (2nd left), Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Mandela (left), and the widow of Mandela, Graca Machel (3rd left), sit by his coffinGathered to remember Madiba: South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma (2nd left), Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Mandela (left), and the widow of Mandela, Graca Machel (3rd left), sit by his coffin

 

Embrace: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who initially claimed he had not been invited to the funeral, hugs former president Thabo MbekiEmbrace: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who initially claimed he had not been invited to the funeral, hugs former president Thabo Mbeki

 

Respect: Candles are lit under a portrait of Nelson Mandela before his funeral. One for every year of his lifeRespect: Candles are lit under a portrait of Nelson Mandela before his funeral. One for every year of his life

 

Dignitaries: Prince Charles, right, arrives for the state funeral on SundayDignitaries: Prince Charles, right, arrives for the state funeral on Sunday
Rerpesenting Britain: The Queen sent the Prince of Wales, pictured here speaking to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a politician and former wife of Jacob ZumaRepresenting Britain: The Queen sent the Prince of Wales, pictured here speaking to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a politician and former wife of Jacob Zuma
Mourners: US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, centre, her husband Stedman Graham, left, and English businessman Richard Branson, right, watching the funeral service Mourners: US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, centre, her husband Stedman Graham, left, and English businessman Richard Branson, right, watching the state funeral service

 

Praise: President Jacob Zuma said that Mandela was 'a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope'

Praise: President Jacob Zuma said that Mandela was ‘a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope’

Historic figure: Thousands of people are paying tribute to South Africa 's first black president
Historic figure: Thousands of people have paid tribute to South Africa’s first black president as he was buried today

He read a Mandela quote: ‘I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I fought it all through my life. I fight it now and will fight it to the end of my life.’

He said he taught forgiveness and reconciliation.

‘We learned from you that to build a new society, a new SA from the ashes of apartheid and colonialism we had to rise above anger and the human desire for retribution.’

Zuma also spoke of Mandela’s dedication to gender equality which led to more women in public life.

He said: ‘We dare not reverse your achievements in this regard.’

‘As you take your final steps, South Africa will continue to rise.’

He said the poor and working class have benefitted from the fruits of democracy.

‘We commit to work more intensely to deal a decisive blow against poverty, inequality.’

In a political eulogy he promised improved utilities, better jobs and working conditions as well as efficient and accountable public service.

‘We will be able to complete this country’s transformation into a global force for social and economic leadership that you believed we were capable of being.’

‘Tata as your triumphant journey comes to an end we sincerely thank you.’

‘We sincerely thank you, thank your family for sharing you with us and the world.’

Zuma added that his children must be truly proud today to be ‘brought to this planet by a man so great and humble’.

His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins below a lectern where speakers delivered eulogies.

‘A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers,’ said Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mandela’s family.

Nandi Mandela said her grandfather went barefoot to school in Qunu when he was boy and eventually became president and a figure of global import.

‘It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life,’ she said, recalling kind gestures by Mandela ‘that made all those around him also want to do good.’

In the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name: ‘Go well, Madiba. go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race.’

Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend’s ‘abundant reserves’ of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.

‘He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking,’ Kathrada said, his voice breaking at times. ‘How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn’t do so.’ 

Final journey: The coffin carrying former South African President Nelson Mandela is escorted into his state funeral service in Qunu this morningFinal journey: The coffin carrying former South African President Nelson Mandela is escorted into his state funeral service in Qunu this morning
Eulogy: Mandela's granddaughter Nand takes to the podium to pay her tributes to the leaderEulogy: Mandela’s granddaughter Nand takes to the podium to pay her tributes to the leader
Honor: A gun salute is fired as the funeral procession nears the Mandela family compoundHonour and respect: A gun salute is fired as the funeral procession nears the Mandela family compound at the start of today

Reading an obituary, Mr Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela said the former leader became ‘one of the world’s greatest icons’.

‘It is through Mandela that the world cast its eyes on South Africa and took notice of the severe and organised repression of black South Africans,’ he said.

‘Yet it was also through Mandela that the world would learn the spirit of endurance, the triumph of forgiveness and the beauty of reconciliation.’

Some mourners wiped away tears as Kathrada spoke, his voice trembling with emotion.

Mandela’s widow, Grace Machel, and his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black and sat on either side of South African President Jacob Zuma.

Guests included veterans of the military wing of the African National Congress, the liberation movement that became the dominant political force after the end of apartheid, as well as U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and other foreign envoys. 

More than an hour into the service, people were still filling empty seats in parts of the marquee. Soldiers moved in to occupy some chairs.

The funeral included traditions of Mandela’s Thembu clan, as well as a 21-gun salute, brass band and fly over by jets.

Elders were in traditional funeral attire out of respect for Mandela and his family sang old struggle songs as they lined the road to greet the funeral cortege.

The Xhosa people to whom Mandela belonged have a number of hallowed traditions surrounding death – including the ritual slaughter of an ox.

Because the former president died far from his birthplace, his body had to be escorted home so he could be buried near to where he was born.

The Xhosa believe that in order to guide the souls of the dead to their final resting places, their bodies should be constantly talked to so that they know where they are going.

When Mandela was about to be buried, his family will have said to him, ‘Madiba, we are now burying you,’ according to religious expert Nokuzola Mndende.

Procession: Military officers accompany the coffin into the funeral as others stand to attentionProcession: Military officers accompany the coffin into the funeral as others stand to attention
Graca Machel
Winnie Mandela Madikizela

Wives: Grace Machel, left, and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, have led South Africa in mourning for the man they were both married to

Speech: Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, was one of many African leaders to pay tribute to Mandela at the serviceSpeech: Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, was one of many African leaders to pay tribute to Mandela at the service

Stage: The speakers delivered their addresses in front of 95 candles, representing every year of Mandela's lifeStage: The speakers delivered their addresses in front of 95 candles, representing every year of Mandela’s life

 

Moved: Mandela's daughter Makaziwe, centre, sits in front of her father's coffin during the ceremonyMoved: Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe, centre, sits in front of her father’s coffin during the ceremony

Tears: The former president's daughter Zindzi comforts another mournerTears: The former president’s daughter Zindzi comforts another mourner

Soldiers moved in to fill some of the empty chairs during the funeral servicePacking out the building: Soldiers moved in to fill some of the empty chairs during the funeral service, despite many people complaining about being left off the invite list

Prominent people are traditionally wrapped in an animal skin – kings are covered with the hide of a lion, but because Mandela was a clan chief he will have been wrapped in leopard skin.

One important element of the funeral process is the ritual slaughtering of an ox, whose bellows are believed to be a sign that the ancestors are welcoming the dead man to the spirit world.

A banquet is then traditionally held after the burial service at which guests drink the blood of the sacrificed ox.

It is not known whether this tradition has been respected at Mandela’s funeral, but it is likely that foreign guests such as Prince Charles would be offered meat rather than blood.

A year from now, another ox will be slaughtered in commemoration of Mandela, and a year after that the family will hold a ceremony to ensure that his spirit continues to guide and watch over them.

Xhosa tradition dictates that bodies must be buried at noon, ‘when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest’ – but this requirement was failed because the funeral service was running late.

In addition, the organisers of the ceremony ignored the tradition that funerals should be open to anyone who wants to attend, with 4,500 hand-picked guests invited and locals barred from the hall.

Professor Zilibele Mtumane, an expert on African languages and culture, told the BBC that the unique nature of Mandela’s funeral means that it may not have complied with all traditional practices.

But he added: ‘I also think some of the traditional practices might have been conducted last evening already. That is why we don’t see much of them here.

Tradition: Mandela's casket, covered in the nation's flag, was placed on a cattle skin as the service combined elements of traditional and state funeralsTradition: Mandela’s casket, covered in the nation’s flag, was placed on a cattle skin as the service combined elements of traditional and state funerals
Display: The coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela is seen draped in a South African national flag during his funeral in his ancestral village of Qunu Display: The coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela is seen draped in a South African national flag during his funeral in his ancestral village of Qunu

 

Tribute: A military officer places the framed flag of South Africa on top of Mandela's coffinTribute: A military officer places the framed flag of South Africa on top of Mandela’s coffin at the start of his funeral service this morning

 

Sombre: South Africa's current president Jacob Zuma sitting between Winnie Mandela and Graca MachelSombre: South Africa’s current president Jacob Zuma sitting between Winnie Mandela and Graca Machel – who were seen holding hands as they supported each other on this difficult day

 

State funeral: Mandela's coffin is carried into the white tent for the serviceState funeral: Mandela’s coffin is carried into the white tent for the service by senior military figures and an Army chaplain

 

Support: African National Congress supporters chant before the start of the funeralSupport: African National Congress supporters chant before the start of the funeral, which began with the national anthem of Mandela’s beloved country

 

Dignitaries: Anti-apartheid activist and friend Ahmed Kathrada, right, with former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki Dignitaries: Anti-apartheid activist and friend Ahmed Kathrada, right, with former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki speak before the service

 

United in grief: Mandela's widow Graca Machel, above, and his former wife Winnie, below, arrived holding hands and sat together for the serviceUnited in grief: Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, above, and his former wife Winnie, below, arrived holding hands and sat together for the service that lasted around four hours

 

United in grief: Mandela's widow Graca Machel, above, and his former wife Winnie, below, arrived holding hands and sat together for the service
Traditional: Mandla Mandela right, grandson of former South African president Nelson Mandela, during his grandfather's funeralTraditional: Mandla Mandela right, grandson of former South African president Nelson Mandela, during his grandfather’s funeral wearing a tribal head piece

As the state funeral got underway, the national anthem, God Bless Africa, was performed. The anthem is sung in five languages – three African as well as Afrikaans and English.

Deputy leader of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at the funeral, explaining that in accordance with cultural traditions, they planned to lay Mandela to rest at noon ‘When the sun is at hits highest and shadows are at its shortest’.

He told the mourners he agreed with president Jacob Zuma, who called Mandela South Africa’s greatest son: ‘Indeed today, the person who lies here today is South Africa’s greatest son.’

Ramaphosa also welcomed royalty and presidents from Africa and around the world, including Prince Charles, and the Prince of Monaco.

When Chief Ngangamhlaba Matanzima, a cousin and spokesman for the Mandela family addressed the service he criticised those who had booed President Zuma during the memorial at the stadium. He added that the fake sign language interpreter had been an embarrassment to the nation. 

Wearing a leopard skin to show his status as a chief, Matanzima asked the medical team who cared for Mandela to stand while they were applauded.

The next speaker was Ahmed Kathrada, a friend and anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned alongside Mandela on Robben Island for more than 20 years.

He spoke fondly of his last meeting with Mandela, and how it brought back memories of when they first met 67 years ago, when he was a ‘tall, healthy, strong man. The boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel … and vigorously exercised every morning.’

Song of freedom: This Zulu man stood with others in Qunu singing traditional songs celebrating Mandela's life and how he overcame his struggles Song of freedom: This Zulu man stood with others in Qunu singing traditional songs celebrating Mandela’s life and how he overcame his struggles

 

Tribute: Zulu men carry traditional weapons and shields in honour of their country's leader, who helped free South Africa after apartheidTribute: Zulu men carry traditional weapons and shields in honour of their country’s leader, who helped free South Africa after years of apartheid

 

NELSON MANDELA’S FINAL JOURNEY: THE STATE FUNERAL PROGRAMME FOR THE LATE FORMER PRESIDENT

The state funeral programme of the late former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

AT HOME

Family Valedictory Service – Rev V Nyobole

Opening Devotions

Viewing of the body;  Homily;  Draping of the casketPlacing of the casket on the gun carriage and forming up of processionProcession departs for the marquee

MARQUEE SERVICE

Funeral Service

National AnthemOpening devotions: Bishop D Dabula

Madiba Family Representative – Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima

Close friend – Mr Ahmed Kathrada

Reading of the Obituary

Tribute by the children and grandchildren: Ms Nandi Mandela

Tribute by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (AU Chairperson)

Tribute by President Joyce Banda (SADC Chairperson)

Tribute by President Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania)

Oration by President Jacob Zuma

Sermon and Benediction – Bishop Z SiwaMilitary Ceremony – Chaplain-General of the SANDFMovement of Designated Mourners to the GravesiteMilitary Procession 

AT THE GRAVESITE

President and family are seated at the gravesite

Removal of the Orders, Decorations, Medals and Miniature RSA Flag from the coffin by the SANDF to be handed over to the Chief of the SANDF who hands it over to the President for presentation to the next-of-kin.

Undraping of the casket

Pall-bearers salute and withdraw

Military pall-bearers take up position

Playing of the National Anthem, 21 Round Interment Salute and the Salute Flight

The Last Post is sounded

Sounding of Reveille

Military pall-bearers salute and withdraw

Committal Service by Bishop D Dabula

Vote of thanks: Major-General (retired) Bantu Holomisa

Benediction – Bishop D Dabula

Final goodbye: The flag-draped casket of South Africa's first black president arrives in Mandela's villageFinal goodbye: The flag-draped casket of South Africa’s first black president arrives in Mandela’s village at just after dawn today

 

Coming home: A parade of servicemen lead the casket to the funeralComing home: A parade of servicemen lead the casket to the funeral through the Eastern cape hills ‘Tata’ – as he was known – loved all his life

 

Home at last: Military officers and Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela, rear, accompany the casket of the former South African President as it arrives in QunuHome at last: Military officers and Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela, rear, accompany the casket of the former South African President as it arrives in Qunu

 

Prayer: A traditional Shembe priest offers prayers as he looks towards the dome where Mandela's funeral was heldPrayer: A traditional Shembe priest offers prayers as he looks towards the dome where Mandela’s funeral was held

Spectator: A man watches the funeral on a big screen erected near the site of the ceremony

Spectator: A man watches the funeral on a big screen erected near the site of the ceremony

Watching: Locals who were kept away from the ceremony itself watched a big screen overlooking the venueWatching: Locals who were kept away from the ceremony itself watched a big screen overlooking the venue

 

Assembled: Residents of Qunu sit and watch the proceedings unfoldAssembled: Residents of Qunu sit and watch the proceedings unfold

 

Shelter: Women watching the funeral in Qunu wearing cloths on their heads to keep off the sunShelter: Women watching the funeral in Qunu wearing cloths on their heads to keep off the sun

In an operation led by the military, the body’s journey began at dawn at Pretoria’s air force base Waterkloof, where 1,000 members of the ANC gave him an exuberant send-off, with singing and dancing beneath a hangar decked out in the party colours of green, black and gold.

Accompanied by family members, tribal elders and senior government figures, the coffin was then flown 550 miles to Mthatha airport, about 20 miles from Qunu.

Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela travelled separately from the coffin, in accordance with tribal tradition, and were seen comforting each other as it arrived. From the airport, a hearse carried Mandela through the town, where crowds lined the route ten deep, then along Nelson Mandela Road and into the open countryside of green hills and red-flowering Cape Aloe.

There were helicopters, armoured personnel vehicles, expensive cars – which all seemed to have blue lights, whether they contained police officers or not – and an endless stream of motorcycle outriders, some in white uniforms.

Tradition: Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela, right, watches as local chiefs escort the lion skin draped casket of former South African President as it arrives at the Mandela residence in QunuTradition: Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela, right, watches as local chiefs escort the lion skin draped casket of former South African President as it arrives at the Mandela residence in Qunu
Winnie Mandela (left), ex-wife of former South African President, and Graca Macel, widow of Mandela, wipe away tears as his flag-draped coffin arrives at the Mthata airport Winnie Mandela (left), ex-wife of former South African President, and Graca Macel, widow of Mandela, wipe away tears as his flag-draped coffin arrives at the Mthata airport
Women hold ANC flags and banners as the long convoy bringing Mandela's body home finally arrives in QunuWomen hold ANC flags and banners as the long convoy bringing Mandela’s body home finally arrives in Qunu. As police and military helicopters buzzed overheard, mourners broke into the South African national anthem as the cortège appeared

 

A last look at the father of the nation: Locals take photographs as Mandela's hearse nears Qunu, a small hamlet in South Africa's Eastern Cape province where Mandela grew upA last look at the father of the nation: Locals take photos as Mandela’s hearse nears Qunu, a small hamlet in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province where he grew up

 

 

Parade: Members of the South Africa navy look on at the dome which was set up to host the funeralParade: Members of the South Africa navy look on at the dome which was set up to host the funeral

A military guard of honour stands to attention at the Mandela family's homestead in Qunu

A military guard of honour stands to attention at the Mandela family’s homestead in Qunu. Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, died in Johannesburg on December 5 at age 95

Just before 4pm the hearse swept down a gentle slope overlooking a restful scene: the hills and valleys where Mandela roamed as a boy, gathering wild honey, stick-fighting with friends and herding cattle.

‘Madiba is coming home,’ is how 13-year-old Siyathemba Nkunzi, watching with his mother, put it.

The crowd linked hands at the sides of the freshly tarmacked road and mouthed goodbyes as the hearse passed by. Some whistled with excitement. But no one cheered, no one screamed.

Farther up the highway a group of children busied themselves slaughtering a sheep. Qunu was celebrating the return of its revered son.

The military here relinquished control of proceedings and the elders took over. Inside Mandela’s peach-coloured farmhouse, a centuries-old ceremony was performed. The most senior elder ‘spoke to the body’ and, to ensure the spirit of the anti-apartheid hero would enter the next world untroubled, apologised for any past disagreements.

Incense was burned and the body was covered in the skin of a cow slaughtered that day. ‘A normal person from his tribe would be covered in a black and white blanket, but the cow skin is reserved for a man of great stature,’ said a villager.

A small branch from an olive tree was kept near the body. It was brought by air from Qunu soon after Mandela died on December 5 at his home in the wealthy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton. It was used by an elder to address his spirit and persuade him to return to Qunu.

A woman raises her fist in salute as she watches the hearse carrying her country's first black president drive by on the way to his final resting placeHero: A woman raises her fist in salute as she watches the hearse carrying her country’s first black president drive by on the way to his final resting place
Locals cheers as Mandela arrives: Iit was escorted by an enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles, many flashing emergency lights, arriving at about 4pm local time after going past cheering crowds who had lined the route to pay their respectsLocals cheers as Mandela arrives: Iit was escorted by an enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles, many flashing emergency lights, arriving at about 4pm local time after going past cheering crowds who had lined the route to pay their respects

 

Loved by the people: The motorcade transporting Mandela's body passes through crowds of mourners gathered in the town of Mthatha on its way to QunuLoved by the people: The motorcade transporting Mandela’s body passes through crowds of mourners gathered in the town of Mthatha on its way to Qunu
Africa: Young women dance by the roadside in the small village of Queque, near Qunu, as they wait to watch the funeral procession to sweep byAfrica: Young women dance by the roadside in the small village of Queque, near Qunu, as they wait to watch the funeral procession to sweep by

Mandela’s house in the village is modest and contains souvenirs of his life since he was freed. Dominating one wall is an outsized portrait of himself and Graca.

On a bookshelf sits Thomas Macaulay’s History Of England, given to him by Prince Charles.

While Qunu thoroughly approves of the Prince of Wales, politicians – with the exception of Mandela – are not particularly popular among the 500 inhabitants.

It is because of the presence of so many government ministers, diplomats and overseas leaders that many local people have been excluded from attending the funeral.

‘In our culture it is disrespectful for us not to go, but there is nothing we can do about it, and that is very upsetting,’ said Simesihile Sohaye.

It wasn’t just the locals who were left out. Unfathomably, retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mandela’s long-time friend and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has not been invited. Some political observers speculated that his criticism of the governing ANC was at the root of the snub.

‘Much as I would have loved to attend the service to say a final farewell to someone I loved and treasured, it would have been disrespectful to Tata [Mandela] to gatecrash what was billed as a private funeral,’ said Tutu.

‘Had I or my office been informed I would be welcome there is no way on earth I would have missed it.’

Tutu, 82, said he had cancelled his plans to fly to the Eastern Cape after receiving no indication that his name was on the guest list. In an apparent U-turn last night, president Jacob Zuma’s office insisted Tutu would be allowed to attend.

‘If he had called, we would have given him accreditation. They would never have turned Tutu away. There were no malicious shenanigans,’ said a spokeswoman.

Patriotism: South African mourners wave and cheer as the hearse transporting the flag-draped casket containing the body of Mandela as it passes through the town of Mthatha Patriotism: Mourners wave and cheer as the hearse transporting the flag-draped casket containing Mandela’s body as it passes through the town of Mthatha

High security: Soldiers in full combat gear, male and female, were stationed on foot on either side of the road from the airport in MthathaHigh security: Soldiers in full combat gear, male and female, were stationed on foot on either side of the road from the airport in Mthatha

 

Paying respects: Thousands of mourners line the streets of Umthatha as the enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles sweeps through their townPaying respects: Thousands of mourners line the streets of Umthatha as the enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles sweeps through their town

Prince Charles’s place among the mourners, however, is assured. He will be among a group of 430 to actually see Mandela buried in a hillside opposite his home, near the graves of relatives.

‘We are very happy that your future king will be with us,’ said local dignitary Nzg Yorkwana, who runs the Nelson Mandela Museum on the outskirts of Qunu. ‘He is a very dignified man and I am looking forward to meeting him.’

Mandela and the people of this remote region are from the Thembu tribe of the Xhosa ethnic group and have a royal family of their own, of which Mandela was a member.

‘Prince Charles has a great sense of tradition,’ said Ms Yorkwana. ‘I’m sure he will be very interested in the service.’

And unlike certain world leaders, the Queen’s eldest son will, of course, resist the urge to whip out his mobile for a ‘selfie’.

‘That would be unthinkable,’ laughed Ms Yorkwana.

A South African mourner embraces a poster of Mandela, while waiting with other mourners for the motorcade transporting the body of former President Nelson Mandela to pass by in the town of Mthatha
Khanyile Diko cheers while waiting for the motorcade transporting the body of Nelson Mandela in the town of Mthatha on its way to Qunu

Figurehead: A South African mourner embraces a poster of Mandela, while waiting with other mourners for the motorcade transporting the body of the former president to pass by in the town of Mthatha. Right, Khanyile Diko cheers while wearing a T-shirt depicting the liberation hero as a scarf around his neck

Crowds of mourners cheer as they await the motorcadeCrowds of mourners cheer as they await the motorcade: Mandela languished in jail for 27 years for his opposition to the racist apartheid regime. Freed in 1990, he emerged to forge a new democratic South Africa by promoting forgiveness and reconciliation
A celebration of life: Mourners sing, wave their national flag and hold up posters of Mandela as they wait for his funeral cortège to appearA celebration of life: Mourners sing, wave their national flag and hold up posters of Mandela as they wait for his funeral cortège to appear
Full military honours: Fighter jets escort the military plane carrying the coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela as it is flown to Mandela's home in the village of Qunu, Eastern CapeFull military honours: Fighter jets escort the military plane carrying the coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela as it is flown to Mandela’s home in the village of Qunu, Eastern Cape

By early evening, mourners were leaving Mandela’s house after a supper and informal speeches of thanks to the doctors who took care of him.

Mandela’s eldest grandson and heir, Mandla, helped staff move huge bouquets of white lilies from the house to the adjoining marquee for the service.

As well as Christian hymns, it will include Xhosa singing and dancing accompanied by the explosive sound of the Igbo drum. Poems about Mandela’s life and achievements will also be read.

‘It will be a very special occasion,’ said 19-year-old Sibabale Ketwa. ‘He was such an inspiration. I am working hard at school and I hope that like him I can leave this area and go on to do great things. Well, maybe not quite as great as him.

 

 

Source : Daily Mail

 

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