By Hugo Odiogor & Henry Umoru, with agency reports
Songs, speeches, military parade and the booms of 21 gun salute rented the air, yesterday, as anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, took his resting place in Qunu, to mark an end to 95 years of struggle for freedom and dignity of black man in South Africa.
It was the end of a journey that began on December 5, when he drew his final breath after a protracted lung infection.With his family and South African leaders coming to terms that Madiba is gone forever, tears, frustration and dancing, accompanied the eulogies that came from international dignitaries, world leaders and statesmen that came to say final goodbye to the man that reconciled the country in its most vulnerable period.
The burial brought an end to 10 days of ceremonies that included a massive stadium memorial in Johannesburg and three days during which Mandela’s body lay in state in the capital, Pretoria.
The funeral service began with an emotional rendition of the country’s national anthem, while the body was placed in a huge tent at the family compound of the anti-apartheid leader.
Mandela’s portrait looked over the assembly in the white marquee from behind a bank of 95 candles, representing each year of his remarkable life. His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins below a lectern where speakers delivered eulogies.
The traditional ruler of Qunu, Mandela’s tribal family, Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, draped in animal skin declared: “A great tree has fallen. He is now going home to rest with his forefathers.”
Mandela’s widow, Grace Machel, and his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black and sat on either side of South African President Jacob Zuma.
After the funeral ceremony, a smaller group of guests was allowed to attend Mandela’s burial at a family grave site on the estate in Qunu, a rural village in Eastern Cape Province.
‘He had no shoes’ Nandi Mandela said her grandfather went barefoot to school in Qunu when he was boy and eventually became President and a figure of global import.
“It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life,” she said, recalling kind gestures by Mandela “that made all those around him also want to do good.”
In 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.”
‘67 years ago’
Mandela’s friend who was with him in prison at Robben Island, Ahmed Kathrada, brought the audience to tears when he recounted his last moments with Mandela. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.
He said: “He tightly held my hand. It was profoundly heartbreaking. 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.” Mourners wiped away tears as emotional Kathrada spoke.
Guests included Britain’s Prince Charles, Monaco’s Prince Albert II, U.S. television personality Oprah Winfrey, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Richard Branson and former Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. There were also veterans of the military wing of the African National Congress, the liberation movement that became the dominant political force after the end of apartheid.
South African television, which showed Mandela’s casket at the family gravesite, was stopped from broadcasting the interment at the request of Mandela’s family.
A statement from former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar’s office, yesterday, read: “Former Vice President Abubakar was on Sunday honored by the South African leadership with front row seat at both the state funeral and private burial ceremonies of global icon, Nelson Mandela.
“Atiku was selected to be among the few lucky personalities to see Mr. Mandela’s final burial ceremonies in the land of his ancestors in accordance with the Xhosa culture by the South African leadership, with which he has maintained an excellent type of relationship since the days when he, as Vice President and the then Deputy President Zuma co-chaired the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-national Commission.“That was a period marked by important trade and investment relations between the two countries.”