Madiba’s body taken to gravesite

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iol news pic Mandela funeral 21


Officers leave a frame on the coffin of Nelson Mandela during his funeral ceremony in Qunu. Photo: ODD ANDERSEN

Qunu - Nelson Mandela's body was taken to his family plot for burial after a state funeral ceremony on Sunday in his rural boyhood home of Qunu.

Access to the burial, to be conducted in line with traditional Xhosa rites, was restricted on the wishes of the Mandela family, who had invited just 450 special guests to attend the ritual.

The others have been requested to watch proceedings on big screens.

Mandela's two loves, his widow Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, held onto each other as they moved towards the site where he will be buried.

Other members of the family were visibly emotional when they walked out of the venue where the funeral service took place.

The approximately 5000 guests at the funeral stood silently when Mandela's flag-draped coffin was carried out by senior military officers.

Soprano Linda Bukhosini, backed by a choir, sang a lament while guests left the venue.

Choirs sang a farewell to Mandela as his coffin was taken from his funeral service to his burial site.

"Our hearts are in pain for you. Farewell, until we see you again," the choir sang in Xhosa.

Members of the army and other armed services lined the road while Mandela's body was led there to the gravesite a military procession, as planes flew overhead.

Jets will fly over the burial of Mandela in the missing man formation.

The pattern of the jets is usually only formed when pilots are saluting a missing comrade.

The national anthem will be played, a 21-gun salute fired and, after the flyover, the Last Post will be sounded.

Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, President Jacob Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj, Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and traditional leaders were among those in the procession.

US talk show host Oprah Winfrey and her partner Stedman Graham were among those attending the burial.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was also among the guests allowed to attend the gravesite.

His name was called as one of the religious leaders allowed to the family burial area.

Earlier this weekend, Tutu said he would not attend the funeral, accusing government of not making him feel welcome.

He said he did not want to “gatecrash” the funeral of his longtime ally and friend.

On Saturday night, he said he would attend after all.

Spokesman Roger Friedman said Tutu would catch a flight early in the morning and would attend Mandela's funeral on Sunday in the village of Qunu. He did not explain Tutu's reversal.

Tutu arrived at the venue moments before the coffin was delivered on Sunday morning.

The funeral service ran almost two hours overtime. - Sapa, AFP

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