Qunu, South Africa (4E) – Former South African president Nelson Mandela’s remains were laid to rest at a family gravesite in his ancestral home village of Qunu on Sunday amid a gathering of political and religious leaders.
The burial of Mandela near his home capped a six-day public memorial and funeral service for the world icon known for peacefully ending apartheid in the country and uniting its black and white population. He died at age 95 in Johannesburg on Dec. 5 after a lingering illness.
The public memorial service was held at the FNB Stadium in the capital on Dec. 10 attended by world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who paid tribute to the first black South African president with a eulogy. In the next three days, Mandela’s body lied in state at the Union buildings in Pretoria with an estimated 100,000 people paying their last respect to the father of the nation.
Mandela’s coffin draped in national flag was flown from Waterkloof airbase in Pretoria to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape province on Saturday. A military guard of honor took the casket on a gun carriage to Qunu with cheering and singing locals lining the 20-mile route.
At the Mandela family’s home, there was a giant marquee where his portrait hung lighted by 95 candles. The coffin was placed beneath a lectern before family members, friends and dignitaries spoke as other guests sang and danced. South African President Jacob Zuma led the service singing before delivering his oration.
Also speaking were family spokesman, Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, Mandela’s close friends Ahmed Kathrada and George Bizos, his grandchildren Ndaba and Nandi, Malawi President Joyce Banda, former Zambia president Kenneth Kaunda, and African National Congress (ANC) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Madenla’s widow Graca Machel, his second wife, Winnie-Madikizela Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and British entrepreneur Richard Branson, ANC members, veterans of the fight against apartheid, other African presidents and the Prince of Wales were among those present.
The ceremony was broadcast live on a large outdoor screen set up on a hill overlooking Mandela’s home. Hundreds of villagers watched the proceedings.
After the ceremony, military pallbearers carried the coffin to the grave site. Before the coffin was lowered to the ground, three helicopters trailing South African flags flew over the scene followed by six jets.