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Mandela’s remains flown to childhood village for funeral

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s remains were today flown to his childhood village of Qunu for burial tomorrow, bringing down the curtain on ten days of national mourning
Nelson MandelaPretoria: Nelson Mandela’s remains were today flown to his childhood village of Qunu for burial tomorrow, bringing down the curtain on ten days of national mourning and global tributes for the anti-apartheid icon.

An air force plane carrying Mandela’s casket took off from here after up to 100,000 people filed past his body during the three days it lay in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The same venue had witnessed his inauguration as South Africa’s first black President in 1994.

Thousands had packed a stadium in Soweto for a memorial service for Mandela on Tuesday, an event which saw many world leaders, including President Pranab Mukherjee and US President Barack Obama, coming together to pay homage to the elder statesman.

Mandela died on December 5 at the age of 95 after a protracted illness.

Members of Mandela’s family accompanied his remains to Qunu, the village where he had wanted to spend his final days. He will be buried tomorrow in a state funeral incorporating burial rites of his Xhosa tribe.

The Hercules C-130 transport aircraft, escorted by two Gripen fighter jets, took off from Waterkloof airbase after a farewell ceremony organised by the African National Congress. The occasion was the party’s final tribute to the man who demolished apartheid and brought it to power.

President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders attended the event, which included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute. More than 1,000 members of the ANC attended the ceremony that was broadcast live on television.

US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and Ireland’s Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams were among the foreign guests invited.

Mourners heard Zuma pay his own tribute to Mandela, calling him a “towering figure” and “a man of action”.

“Yes, we will miss him… He was our father, he was our guardian. He was something special. We’ll always keep you in our hearts,” Zuma said during the ceremony.

After the ceremony, two of Mandela’s closest friends and fellow Robben Island prisoners, veteran Indian-origin anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada and Andrew Mlangeni, helped wheel his coffin onto the runway. It was loaded into a hearse and driven to the waiting Hercules plane.

The aircraft will touch down at Mthatha and the convoy with Mandela’s body will then drive through the streets of the town before being taken to Qunu, about 31 km away, where he spent much of his childhood.

President Zuma and other ANC leaders attended the event, which included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute. More than 1,000 members of the ANC attended the ceremony that was broadcast live on television.

Mourners heard Zuma pay his own tribute to Mandela, calling him a “towering figure” and “a man of action”.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela“Yes, we will miss him… He was our father, he was our guardian. He was something special. We’ll always keep you in our hearts,” Zuma said during the ceremony.

About 100,000 people filed past his body during the three days it lay in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The same venue had witnessed his inauguration as South Africa’s first black President in 1994.

Heads of state or their deputies from ten countries will attend the funeral tomorrow. Among the dignitaries will be UK’s Prince Charles, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari and King Letsie III of Lesotho.

A government spokesman said most countries had accepted that logistics in the rural area had precluded them from attending.

Almost 100 heads of state attended the official memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday, when President Pranab Mukherjee and US President Barack Obama along with three other heads of state delivered eulogies.

In Qunu, the public have been encouraged to watch live broadcasts on television rather than attempt to attend the funeral. Public viewing areas have been set up at scores of venues across the country.

PTI

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