Military to provide dignified ending

2013-12-12 00:00

THE interior of an air force Hercules C-130 is being draped in black to transport Nelson Mandela’s body to Mthatha on the way to his funeral in Qunu.

Early on Saturday morning, the coffin will be taken to Waterkloof air force base.

There, the national flag draping the coffin will be replaced with an ANC flag, Colonel Gerrit Bezuidenhout, senior staff officer: ceremonial and military music, explained to sister paper Beeld.

In a hangar at the base, the ANC will hold a private farewell ceremony, attended by about 1 000 senior members.

Thereafter, the coffin will again be draped in the South African flag before being carried onto the Hercules by military pall bearers, senior SANDF sergeants-major.

At Mthatha airport, it will be transferred to a hearse with large windows like that being used in Pretoria to be driven to Qunu.

Bezuidenhout said the family has specifically requested that as many people as possible should be able to see the coffin and pay their respects.

“It will be the only opportunity for this community to say farewell to Madiba,” he said.

At Mandela’s home, the flag will be temporarily removed as the coffin is handed over to the Amathembu clan for traditional ceremonies and a night vigil.

On Sunday morning, again draped in the flag, the coffin will be taken to the marquee where the funeral will be held.

The Qunu event will be a state funeral with full military honours. The route will be lined by soldiers in full dress uniforms, representative of all the SANDF’s branches, and of all races and both genders.

Throughout, the pall bearers will be senior sergeants-major.

As the coffin is borne from the marquee to the grave, the first 21-gun salute, bestowed on heads of state, will be fired, at one-minute intervals.

The Last Post will be played, as soldiers slow-march. As the coffin is lowered into the grave, the second 21-gun salute will be fired, at five-second intervals.

At the same time, 15 of the air force’s Astra training aircraft will perform a fly-past, concluding the funeral.

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