nb_cid nb_clickOther -tt-nb this.style.behavior='url(#default#homepage)';this.setHomePage('http://www.aol.com/?mtmhp=acm50ieupgradebanner_112313 network-banner-empty upgradeBanner
AOL Mail
AOL Mail
AOL Favorites

Mandela makes final journey home in South Africa

QUNU, South Africa (AP) - His flag-draped casket resting on a carpet of animal skins, Nelson Mandela was laid to rest Sunday in the green, rolling hills of the eastern hamlet where he began his extraordinary journey - one that led him from prison to the presidency, a global symbol of endurance and reconciliation in the fight against South Africa's racist rule.

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."

Nelson Mandela Laid To Rest In Childhood Village

More From You

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum
Filter by:
rgalang1974 December 16 2013 at 7:13 AM

I agree . The man is dead . Now leave him alone and lets move on . He died not us . Lets talk about some other news that might be of interest .! move on people !

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
manguscol December 16 2013 at 12:06 AM

Who cares .enough already.How come operas there . Whuld she be there if he was white ? Shes the one who got obama in . And now we have obamacare..Good luck AMERICA

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
1 reply to manguscol's comment
gflemm1005 December 16 2013 at 1:51 AM

The whole World cares.....the question is who cares about your senseless stupid comments!

Reply Flag as Abusive +2 rate up rate down
willie December 15 2013 at 11:59 PM


Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
Lettybits December 15 2013 at 11:57 PM

To Pumpkinpie:

I wholeheartedly agree with you. I too, have no Facebook account and why should I open one just to post on the HP. The have gone to the dogs!

Reply Flag as Abusive +3 rate up rate down
Lettybits December 15 2013 at 11:56 PM

Let's bury him once and for all!

Reply Flag as Abusive -1 rate up rate down
Pumpkinpie December 15 2013 at 11:34 PM

Most news comments need to be returned to AOL board. Huffpost has become a JOKE, far from what it used to be.
I have no God Damned Face Book account and have absolutely no intention to get one.
If FB has become the worldwide authetication passport for this universe, then I will plan to take a one way ride Mars. STUPID INDEED

Reply Flag as Abusive +1 rate up rate down
1 reply to Pumpkinpie's comment
manguscol December 16 2013 at 12:08 AM

They say they will never give out your info .As ssoon a i joined i got over fifty spam emails and i had to change my email address .thanks facebook

Reply Flag as Abusive +2 rate up rate down
Pumpkinpie December 15 2013 at 11:28 PM

This event SPEAKS VOLUMES, and makes every correctly thinking person wonder WTF is up with Bibi and his folks.
Even staunch supporters of Israel, like me, are really re-thinking REALITY from Bull Scitt .
Menachen Begin must be rolling around in his grave.

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
1 reply to Pumpkinpie's comment
marcanagnos December 15 2013 at 11:31 PM

Lots of other countries didn't attend. If everyone did it would be a madhouse. Is that all you have to say?


Reply Flag as Abusive -1 rate up rate down
stoph241 December 15 2013 at 11:14 PM

Of course Oprah had to get her fat behind there.

Reply Flag as Abusive +1 rate up rate down
2 replies to stoph241's comment
marcanagnos December 15 2013 at 11:33 PM

Who does she even think watched her show all those years? The female majority in the USA, otherwise she never would have made so much money. Now she points blame at them?


Reply Flag as Abusive +3 rate up rate down
manguscol December 16 2013 at 12:02 AM

shes the bigest racist there is

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
gosfnow December 15 2013 at 10:57 PM

i wanna see more of the sign language dude lol they never mentioned how much they paid him ? wonder why ? roflmwao

Reply Flag as Abusive rate up rate down
gosfnow December 15 2013 at 10:55 PM

he's burning right now

Reply Flag as Abusive -5 rate up rate down
~~ 2592000


More From Our Partners