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Artillery boomed and military aircraft roared through a cloud-studded sky, as the simple and the celebrated gathered to pay their final respects in Mandela's native village of Qunu at a state funeral that blended ancient tribal rituals with a display of the might of the new, integrated South Africa.
"Yours was truly a long walk to freedom and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of your maker," Brig. Gen. Monwabisi Jamangile, chaplain-general of the South African military, said as Mandela's casket was lowered into the ground at the family gravesite. "Rest in peace."
"I realized that the old man is no more, no more with us," said Bayanda Nyengule, head of a local museum about Mandela, his voice cracking as he described the burial attended by several hundred mourners after a larger funeral ceremony during which some 4,500 people, including heads of state, royalty and celebrities, paid their last respects.
The burial ended a 10-day mourning period that began with Mandela's death on Dec. 5 at 95, and included a Johannesburg memorial attended by nearly 100 world leaders and three days during which tens of thousands of South Africans of all races and backgrounds filed past Mandela's casket in the capital, Pretoria.
For South Africans, it was also a time for reflection about the racial integration they achieved when Mandela presided over the end of apartheid, and the economic inequality and other challenges that have yet to be overcome and seem certain to test his legacy's endurance.
The burial site marked a return to Mandela's humble roots, but the funeral trappings were elaborate. South African honor guards from the army, navy and air force, including both black and white officers, marched in formation along a winding dirt road.
In contrast to the military pomp, some speakers evoked the traditions of the Xhosa tribe, to which Mandela's Thembu clan belongs.
"A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers," said Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mandela's family who wore an animal skin. "We thank them for lending us such an icon."
Another speaker, Zolani Mkiva, served for many years as Mandela's praise singer, a traditional role in which he shouted out the leader's attributes to audiences, prefacing Mandela's many stations in life with the words "very important:" person, prince, patriot, politician, prisoner, philosopher, president, pensioner, patient, papa.
"The bones of our ancestors are vibrating. The waves of African oceans are reverberating," Mkiva said.
In keeping with Xhosa traditions, Mandela's casket was brought to Qunu Saturday draped in a lion skin, an honor bestowed on those of a high rank like Mandela, who is the son of a traditional clan chief. His body lay for the night in his family home before burial, a time when tradition dictates that family elders "talk" to the body to explain to his spirit what is happening.
South African television showed Mandela's casket at the family gravesite, but the broadcast was stopped just before the coffin was lowered into the ground at the request of the Mandela family, which often talked of how it had to share its patriarch with the nation and the world.
His body was buried around noon, "when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest," said Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the country's ruling party, the African National Congress.
Mandela spent 27 years as a prisoner of apartheid, then emerged to lead a delicate transition to democracy when many South Africans feared the country would sink into all-out racial conflict. He became president in the first all-race elections in 1994 and served one five-year term.
At the funeral ceremony, Mandela's portrait looked over the assembly from behind a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his life. His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins.
Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black Xhosa head wraps and dresses. Guests included veterans of the military wing of the ANC, as well as U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and other foreign envoys.
Britain's Prince Charles, Monaco's Prince Albert II, Oprah Winfrey, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also were there.
At one spot overlooking Mandela's compound, several hundred people gathered to watch the televised ceremony. A group of Zulu traditional dancers with spears and shields gathered nearby to pay their last respects to Mandela.
"He's a first class guy in the world," dancer Musa Ngunbane said.
Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend's "abundant reserves" of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.
"He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking," Kathrada said, his voice breaking at times. "How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn't do so."
Recalling her grandfather's simple roots, Nandi Mandela said he went barefoot to school as a boy in Qunu, where he herded cattle before eventually became president and a figure of global renown.
"It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life," she said.
In the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name: "Go well, Madiba. Go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race."
" laid " in state...
The New York Times, the most liberal printed news on Earth, questioned why Mandela would not renounce violence in 1990.Search it for yourself.
Of the rolling Stones !-never !
Is he still dead I wonder? The media will very soon cover his resurrection.....stay tuned.
resurrection is already there as every Muslim is borne is brought up to l hate the white race!
The only race that teaches their children to hate is the white race. How can you hate me just because I'm darker than blue. Not to worry we will all meet our maker one day.
Shame on you kplwij, for clinging to your ignorance.
Is THAT a cannon they have his coffin on???
okay every one i am going to have a wonderful cup of coffee and laugh all the way to the fridge while you all work out your fun i am smiling at some of this silly stuff i need to go eat real food i can not swallow so much of this b,s, but its all fun i will check back after i have some real brain food
A life not to be judged by other humans but our creator.A man who had his beliefs and stood by them all his life.To me it shows how we all leave this earth and are remembered for the good or not so good.RIP
there is no greater creator - Christianity is the root cause of all evil !
christianity will prevail and we will rid the world of all evil which basically in a nutshell is muslims
Tell me, what has changed in South Africa in the last 15 yrs?
It all boils down to ethics, does the end justify the means. Mandela spent 27 years in prison but came out a new man without the former hate Every evil has its "good" side. Backward Russia which was rift with corruption during the Czarist period was thrown over by the Bolsheviks. God only knows how many Russians died turning this country around and industrializing it. The good accomplished was that with our help it beat Nazi Germany in the East. The pendulum swings like humans do. Violence cannot be justified by itself without knowing the consequences. How many I immigrants to this country died laying the railroad digging the coal, breathing the asbestos filled holds of liberty ships to win the war. What goal justifes a persons death. They are all humanly limited.
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wth...the Bolsheviks were among the most wantonly brutal regimes in history