Madiba’s rural send-off

2013-12-15 16:01

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Villagers were silent as the procession of bishops, pastors, Mandela family members and friends led former president Nelson Mandela’s coffin to its final resting place.

But as soon as the coffin came into view, the crowd ululated and waved as if they were seeing it for the first and the last time – even though they were seeing it on a screen.

About a hundred residents of Qunu and visitors viewed the funeral in a viewing area overlooking the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape village because the people of Madiba’s hometown were barred from attending the event.

Many of them stood when the cannon was fired and the planes and helicopters flew overhead.

The crowd, made up of mostly women and the youth, said their goodbyes today to a man whom they loved and looked up to.

Qunu resident Tyebizolo Matsose said: “When there was something happening at his house, we would always go. As a statesman he was a humble man who would join the men of the village by the kraal. We would sit with him for hours and discuss village issues. We have really lost a great man. His place won’t every be replaced, not here or in our country.”

One of the women who were asked by the ANC councillors in Qunu to cook for the villagers who would be viewing the funeral on screen, said she was satisfied that at least they were asked to assist in some way – as they were used to do.

“We understand that this was the time for the people from overseas to take prominence. It felt great to be asked to cook and contribute in some way to his funeral,” said Nobonile Mangqwambe.

Her fellow cook, Noitali Ngqalo, added that it was a great turnout compared with the number of people they are used to cooking for at an ordinary funeral.

“I was so scared that we would mess us the food. We had to cook for so many people. But I’m glad everyone ate and things went well. This was like a real funeral for us. We really said goodbye to uTata,” she said.

An elderly woman gathered her blanket from her seat and began to walk home with a bottle of water in one hand. Mabhedla Tyeni had just finished her standard funeral meal (umngqusho, lamb, potatoes, cabbage and gravy) and she was satisfied that she had buried Madiba.

“I came here today to bury a very important man in our village. I was not happy when they told us we could not go to his house for the funeral but I guess this is the only other alternative for us. We had to say goodbye to him and let him go home to rest,” she said.

Children were asked to gather all the empty water bottles, plastic spoons and takeaway plates. As the clean-up was in process the scene resembled a real rural send-off.

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