Thousands attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral
The funeral of late South African president Nelson Mandela is underway in his ancestral home of Qunu, where thousands of people have gathered in a large tent erected for the ceremony.
Friends, world leaders and family members hailed Mandela as a man who transformed his family, his country and the world in a somber funeral service in his rural hometown.
Mandela died last week at the age of 95.
World leaders and international celebrities were among the thousands of people who descended on the town of Qunu.
Mourners included Oprah Winfrey, billionaire Richard Branson and numerous South African activists who assisted Mr. Mandela in the struggle to end the racist apartheid regime. He spent 27 years in prison for his opposition and emerged to be elected South Africa’s first black president, in 1994.
Family representative Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima mentioned politics in his speech, criticizing those who booed current president Jacob Zuma at a memorial service this week.
“What we saw on Tuesday at FNB Stadium should never be seen again in this country,” he told mourners in the Xhosa language.
Some of the most moving tributes came from those who described Mandela not as a 20th century colossus, but as a friend and beloved relative.
“I don’t consider him my friend. He was my older brother,” said Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who spent time at Robben Island prison with Mr. Mandela.
Granddaughter Nandi Mandela described Mr. Mandela as a strict grandfather who loved telling stories of his childhood.
She finished her tribute by saying in Xhosa: “go well Madiba….go well to the land of our ancestors, you have ran your race.”
Mr. Mandela’s body will be buried in a private plot in accordance with traditional practices later today.
The ruling African National Congress party held a memorial service for the late president at Waterkloof air base near Johannesburg before the remains were flown to the Eastern Cape Province.
This past week, tens of thousands of mourners turned out to pay tribute to Mr. Mandela, while his body was displayed in Pretoria’s Union Building.
The Union Building is South Africa’s seat of government, and the same place where Mr. Mandela was sworn in as the country’s first black president in 1994, after serving 27 years in prison for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.