Mandela buried in ancestral home in South Africa
Former president recalled as an exceptional leader, writes Peter Murtagh in Qunu
South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma (2nd l), the ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela (l), and the widow of Mandela, Graca Machel (3rd l), sit by the coffin of Mr Mandela during his funeral ceremony in Qunu. Photograph: Odd Andersen/Reuters/Pool
Winnie Mandela (l), ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, and Graca Machel, Mr Mandela’s widow, attend the funeral ceremony in Qunu. Photograph: Odd Andersen/Reuters
A handout photograph made available by the South African Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) shows members of the South African military with the coffin of Nelson Mandela on a gun carraige as it arrives at the State funeral in Qunu, Eastern Cape. Photograph: EPA/Elmond - Jiyane/GCIS
Nelson Mandela was remembered at his funeral today as an exceptional leader who brought his people to freedom and earned the admiration of the world.
With the full panoply of pomp and circumstance befitting the funeral of a great and much loved nation and international leader, Mr Mandela’s body was brought from his house on a gun carriage, led by a military band in bright red dress uniform and a guard of honour of the South African defence forces. It was flanked by senior officers.
Brought into a giant dome marquee above his home, the coffin draped in the South African national flag was placed before some 4,500 dignitaries, members of the Mandela family and the South African government.
Video: Nelson Mandela funeral farewell in Qunu
In a moving oration, his former fellow prisoner on Robben Island, Ahmed Kathrada, said he has lost a brother.
“My life is in a void and I don’t know who to turn to,” said Mr Kathrada who served 26 years with Mr Mandela.
He spoke of Mr Mandela’s fitness and his exercise routine and of how, when he last saw him in hospital, he was a shadow of his former self. But, he said, South Africa had been blessed to have had him and takes enormous pride in his achievements.
The funeral closes one chapter in its tortured history and opens another in which the multi-racial democracy he founded will have to discover if it can thrive without its central pillar.
The Nobel peace laureate, who was held in apartheid prisons for 27 years before emerging to preach forgiveness and reconciliation, was honoured with a mixture of military pomp and the traditional rites of his Xhosa abaThembu clan.
The funeral at Qunu in Eastern Cape province drew 4,500 guests, from relatives and African leaders to Britain’s Prince Charles, American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is also attending.
“The person who is lying here is South Africa’s greatest son,” Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress and one of the masters of ceremonies, said at the service in a huge tent, its interior draped in black. As
Mr Mandela’s coffin, covered by the South African flag, was borne from his homestead on a gun-carriage, a battery of cannons positioned on the hillside fired a 21-gun salute, sending booms echoing across the sun-drenched valley. The coffin was followed into the tent by
Mr Mandela’s grandson and heir, Mandla, and South African President Jacob Zuma. It was then placed on black and white Nguni cattle skins in front of a crescent of 95 candles, one for each year of Mr Mandela’s life, as the service opened with Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the national anthem adopted after the end of apartheid in 1994.
Mr Mandela died in Johannesburg on December 5th, plunging his 53 million countrymen and women and millions more around the world into mourning, and triggering more than a week of official memorials to South Africa’s first black president.
“It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa, ” Mr Zuma said in his eulogy at the funeral ceremony.
“Whilst the long walk to freedom has ended in the physical sense, our own journey continues. We have to continue building the type of society you worked tirelessly to construct. We have to take the legacy forward,” he said. Over 100,000 people had paid their respects in person at