Pretoria - Former president Nelson Mandela began his final journey home to Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Saturday as an air force plane carrying his casket took off from Pretoria, where tens of thousands of mourners have viewed him lying in state this week.
Members of Mandela's family accompanied his remains to the village where he will be buried on Sunday in a state funeral incorporating Xhosa burial rites.
The Hercules C-130 and two Gripen fighter jets left Waterkloof Air Force Base after a send-off ceremony organised by the African National Congress, making the occasion a final ANC tribute to the man who led the movement to power.
After the ceremony, two of Mandela's closest friends and struggle comrades, fellow Robben Island prisoners Ahmed Kathrada and Andrew Mlangeni, helped wheel his coffin onto the runway. It was loaded into a hearse and driven to a waiting C-130 Hercules plane.
The aircraft was due to touch down at Mthatha after noon. The convey carrying Mandela's body will then drive through the streets of Mthatha before being taken to Qunu, about 31km away, where he spent much of his childhood. - Sapa