Mandela funeral brings all together

2013-12-15 10:35


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Qunu - Former president Nelson Mandela's state funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape drew together family and foreign leaders, royals and rural villagers on Sunday as South Africa parted with the man who united it in democracy two decades ago and in grief in the past 10 days.

Mandela's coffin was driven through the hills of his ancestral village on a gun carriage, a hallmark of state funerals, to a marquee filled with lilies and candles on his family's farm.

Mourners rose and sang the national anthem after the coffin was carried into the tent and placed on cow hides.

President Jacob Zuma sat behind the coffin, flanked by Mandela's widow Graca Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Announcing the programme for the funeral, African National Congress chairwoman Baleka Mbete told 4500 mourners Mandela's death had seen "an unprecedented river of tears and emotion".

"No effort has been spared to ensure that much of what Tata was, what he associated himself with, what he loved, and what he would have liked to see this morning," she said.

Methodist minister Vuyani Nyobole led mourners in Mandela's mother's favourite hymn before a song by a children's choir.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed local and foreign guests and said all of them and countless others cherished memories of their personal encounters with Mandela.

“My life is in a void”

"Each one of us, indeed millions of people around the world, have each had their Madiba moment... today, the person who lies here is South Africa's greatest son," Ramaphosa said.

"Madiba is going home and his ideas will continue to inspire us."

The first eulogy came from Mandela's close friend and fellow Robben Island prisoner Ahmed Kathrada, who said he was bereft because he had lost a brother.

"My life is in a void and I do not know who to turn to.

"He was my elder brother," Kathrada said, adding that Mandela had shown love and tolerance in abundance and the outpouring of grief over his death had shown how connected South Africans felt to him.

"Today, mingled with our grief is the enormous pride that one of us has during his lifetime and now in your death united the people of South Africa and the entire world on a scale never seen in history."

Mandela was to be buried beside his parents and his son in the family graveyard at noon - in keeping with Xhosa custom that dictates that the dead are laid to rest when the sun is at it highest.

Foreign dignitaries included Britain's Prince Charles, Monaco's Prince Albert and Zambia's first post-colonial president Kenneth Kaunda.

Family grudges

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu attended in a last-minute change of heart after saying on Saturday he had cancelled plans to go to Qunu after finding he had not been invited.

Faced with the wrath of one of Mandela's close friends and allies, the ANC dismissed the imbroglio as a misunderstanding and insisted that he was welcome.

It had caused speculation that Tutu was sidelined because of his caustic criticism of the current government.

But all indications were that grudges had been firmly set aside for Mandela's funeral, as senior ANC members who have fallen foul of Zuma attended - among them former Cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale.

"It is quite a thing to see them," commented political analyst Justice Malala, as Sexwale chatted with ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

Malala said the ruling party appeared to have put much thought into "what is proper and what is proper for Nelson Mandela" in planning the country's final farewell to its first black president.

Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at

Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest in Qunu. Say your final farewell and be published on News24 by e-mailing or uploading.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  nelson mandela

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