Nelson Mandela Buried At Qunu Ancestral Home

Mandela coffin

Nelson Mandela has finally been put to rest in his home village after 10 days of international mourning.

The funeral began at 8am local time with a two-hour public ceremony for around 4500 invited guests, including senior politicians and a posse of foreign dignitaries.

The guests gathered in a huge tent at the family compound of the anti-apartheid leader.

Mourners included senior South African officials, veterans of the fight against white rule and foreign diplomats, including US Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and Prince Charles. Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and former Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai were also there.

Mandela’s portrait was placed behind two rows of candles in the white, dome-shaped marquee.

Outside, South African military honour guards marched and stood at attention on a dirt road. After the funeral ceremony, a smaller group of guests attended Mandela’s burial at a family grave site on the estate in Qunu, a rural village in Eastern Cape province, ending 10 days of mourning ceremonies that included a massive stadium memorial in Johannesburg and three days during which Mandela’s body lay in state in the capital, Pretoria. He died December at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home.

The vehicle that carried Mandela’s casket, covered with a national flag, arrived at the family compound on Saturday. It was accompanied by an enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles.

The coffin was transported on a military plane from an air base in the capital to this simple village in the wide-open spaces of eastern South Africa.

The public will be shut out of the service itself, which the family has insisted will be a private affair with close friends.

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who like Mandela was an outspoken hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, changed course and said he would be attending the service.

He earlier claimed he had been deliberately snubbed by the ruling African National Congress government, whom he has publicly accused of corruption.

“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,” Archbishop Tutu said in statement released on Saturday.

“Had I or my office been informed that I would be welcome there is no way on earth that I would have missed it.”

In Qunu, Collins Chabane, Minister for the Presidency, issued a messy clarification, saying that Archbishop Tutu had been accredited for both the memorial event and the funeral, but said the ANC was not in charge of issuing funeral invitations.

The graveyard where Mandela was buried sits on the sprawling family estate Mandela built in Qunu after his release from prison in 1990, among the green, rolling hills of the Eastern Cape.

“It was in that village that I spent some of the happiest years of my boyhood and whence I trace my earliest memories,” he wrote in his autobiography.

Speaking at the funeral, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma said, “While the long walk to freedom is over, the journey continues.

“Today marks the end of an extraordinary journey that started 95 years ago,” Zuma said.

“Thank you for being everything that we wanted and needed in a leader,” he continued. “South Africa will continue to rise because we dare not fail you.”

“We will not say goodbye, for you will forever in our hearts.

“We will miss your smile, your laughter, your love and your leadership.”

And to Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, Zuma said, “We are proud of the contribution you made in the struggle.”

Only 450 people, including current and former heads of state, ANC and AU officials, 15 traditional leaders, clergymen and government officials, were allowed at the graveside which the family called a ‘private’ ceremony.


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