Mandela brought home to Qunu

2013-12-14 18:18

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After nine days of nation-wide mourning, Nelson Mandela’s body arrived in his boyhood village of Qunu where he will be buried early tomorrow with state honours and tribal rites.

The military passed Mandela’s flag-draped casket to the ANC who, in turn, handed it to family elders from the AbaThembu clan at the home that served as the former president’s rural retreat.

Scores of people had lined the road from nearby Mthatha to Qunu to see his cortege pass through the green countryside, many clutching flowers and flags, some perched in trees for a better view.

Mandela’s remains were flown to the Eastern Cape from Pretoria after a final tribute by the ANC at the Waterkloof Airforce Base to the man who symbolised its struggle against apartheid and led it to power in 1994.

President Jacob Zuma saluted Mandela’s commitment to a non-racial society, and said his life’s work would never be forgotten, before shouting “Amandla” and breaking into song.

“Go well Tata ... we will always remember you,” he said.

Zuma’s political woes have become plain in the wake of Mandela’s death – months before the next general elections – and the ANC is trying to contain the fallout after he was loudly booed before a large cast of world leaders at Tuesday’s official memorial in Soweto.

“We need more Madibas so that our country can prosper ... Yes, we are free, but the challenge of inequality remains,” he told the audience of key ANC figures at Waterkloof, including former president Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki, who was ousted by Zuma five years ago, made headlines this week when he suggested the country needed better leadership.

Tomorrow’s funeral will gather some 4 000 mourners, a small number compared to the tens of thousands who filled most of Soweto’s FNB Stadium to hear US President Barack Obama lead tributes to Mandela.

Read: Mandela memorial: 10 key moments from Barack Obama’s speech

The event became mired in controversy today when Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu announced that he would not attend because he had not been invited.

“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 to gatecrash what was billed as a private family funeral,” he said in a statement.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj contradicted Tutu, giving assurances that the cleric – who had a long, close association with Mandela, but has lambasted the current government – was on the guest list.

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