Tribal customs to be observed at Mandela’s state burial

Crowds expected to form human chain beside procession of hearse

Military outriders ride past a village as they rehearse escorting the funeral cortege for former South African president Nelson Mandela in Mthatha,  Eastern Cape. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Military outriders ride past a village as they rehearse escorting the funeral cortege for former South African president Nelson Mandela in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 01:00

Former South African president Nelson Mandela will return to the village of his childhood in the Eastern Cape today for the start of two days of funeral rites that will culminate in his burial tomorrow.

Crowds will line the streets holding hands to form a chain as his hearse proceeds from Mthatha airport into the city, where it will pause, before going on to Qunu, 25km away. Last night, Mr Mandela’s body was taken from Union Buildings in Pretoria after three days lying in state.

Accompanied by his grandson Mandla Mandela, a 21-strong military escort led Mr Mandela’s departure from Pretoria. On Monday, president Jacob Zuma will unveil a nine-metre tall statue of Mr Mandela at Union Buildings.

Uncontrolled grief
The South African government said that night a final- day rush of people wishing to pay their respects to their former president saw the total number who have filed past the coffin in three days rise to 100,000. There were several instances of uncontrolled grief yesterday.

As the coffin was carried away and the national anthem played, Mandla Mandela spoke softly to it, in keeping with custom. Mr Mandela’s remains are expected to arrive in Mthatha at 10am today.

The body will be accompanied by members of Mr Mandela’s Madiba clan, and of the Mandela family, as well as senior government officials. Mr Mandela was a member of the Thembu tribe and their traditions are expected to be observed at the airport.

Tribal traditions
“The king [Buyelekhyua Dalindyebo] will tell Madiba that he is there to receive him. The king will salute Madiba and the procession will go to Mthatha city centre,” said chief Mfundo Bhovulengwe Mtirara (although later questions were raised over the king’s attendance). “We will then move the body to iNdlu eNkulu [great house] at Qunu and then hand the body to reverends [ministers] .”

The body is to be handed over to leaders of the Methodist Church in the afternoon. Tomorrow’s service will be attended by fewer foreign dignitaries than the state memorial service on Tuesday.

It is “to be attended by several heads of state and government, former heads of state, eminent persons, heads of delegation, heads of international organisations and the diplomatic corps,” spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday.

Britain’s Prince Charles, Malawian president Joyce Banda, Lesotho’s King Letsie III, and current and former statesmen from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Zambia are expected at the funeral.

Iran’s vice-president Mohammad Shariatmadari will also attend, alongside representatives of Norway and France. African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and EU representative Roeland van der Geer will attend, as will US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.