‘Mandela must be buried before noon’

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A screengrab taken from the SABC live feed shows ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa speaking during the funeral service of Nelson Mandela in Qunu. Photo: AFP/ SABC

Qunu - Former president Nelson Mandela must be buried before noon, in accordance with traditional customs, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said at his state funeral in Qunu on Sunday.

"Behind me are 95 candles lit early this morning. They represent the years of his life... and more especially the contribution he made to our country."

Ramaphosa said it was imperative that the service to be over in time.

"... In terms of the traditions of this part of the country, the person is meant to be laid to rest when the sun is at its highest," he said.

The funeral service held in the marquee would therefore need to finish at 10.30am at the latest.

In the 10 days since Mandela died, "many of us have been engaged with memory of Madiba, what he has meant to us, what he meant to the world", said Ramaphosa.

This was a time of love, celebration and mourning.

He quoted President Jacob Zuma as describing Mandela as "Africa's greatest son".

Ramaphosa acknowledged those present at the funeral, including Mandela's widow Graca Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Mandela's relatives.

Others he acknowledged included former president Thabo Mbeki, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, Cabinet ministers, members of the African National Congress national executive, and traditional and religious leaders.

Struggle veterans, judicial dignitaries, trade union leadership and leaders of opposition parties were also greeted, as were Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Charles Prince of Wales and Prince Albert of Monaco.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu arrived just in time, after saying on Saturday that he would no longer attend because he was not invited. However, the government replied by saying he was welcome, and he then made a last-minute decision to go. - Sapa

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