Nelson Mandela's home in Qunu. Picture: Bongani Mbatha

Johannesburg - Sacred AbaThembu traditions prevented ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and other party leaders from paying tribute at late Struggle icon Nelson Mandela's grave in Qunu on Thursday.

A high level delegation led by Ramaphosa, his deputy David Mabuza, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general Ace Magashule, his deputy Jessie Duarte and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile and other national executive committee (NEC) members met the Mandela family behind closed doors.

Mandela's grandson and ANC MP Mandla Mandela said AbaThembu traditions needed to be respected and followed before the ANC leaders were allowed to lay wreaths at the former president's grave.

February 11, the 28th anniversary of Mandela's release, has been named as the date for the ceremony.

For the ceremony to take place, elders from the Mandela family will have to deliver the request to visit his grave from ANC leaders.

On the day of the ceremony an ox will have to be slaughtered to cleanse the ANC leaders.

Earlier, several NEC members nearly missed out on the meeting as security at the Mandela homestead did not recognise them.

Jackson Mthembu was forced to angrily identify fellow NEC members including Faith Muthambi, Faiez Jacobs and Joe Maswanganyi.

Mthembu was later also summoned to identify another NEC member Lindiwe Zulu after security refused to allow her entry.

An unhappy Zulu complained that although she had driven all the way from East London to Qunu, a distance of over 200km, she would return if they would not allow her entry.

The Star