Nelson Mandela has today been buried in the remote village where the anti-apartheid icon grew up after a four-hour state funeral attended by thousands of mourners.
South Africa's first black president died in his Johannesburg home on December 5 at the age of 95 after a long battle with illness, and he was laid to rest in his grave in Qunu in Eastern Cape province after ten days of mourning in his beloved country. Troops lined the route up to the hillside where he was buried as Mandela was carried on a gun carriage to a plot on his family’s estate.As his body was placed on the grave the South African flag on the coffin was removed and handed to Mandela's widow Graca Machel, who was comforted by his ex-wife Winnie Mandela.A fly-past then followed accompanied by a 21-gun salute and a solitary trumpeter played the Last Post while his body was lowered into the ground.As he was buried armed forces Chaplain General Monwabisi Jamangile said: 'Yours was truly a long walk to freedom, and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom, in the bosom of your maker.'His funeral was also marked by his Xhosa tribe whose elders traditionally slaughter an ox to accompany the deceased's spirit after burial, while guests are asked to drink its blood from a communal bowl.But it is understood dignitaries such as Prince Charles were likely to be offered the animal's meat to eat instead after it was cooked on an open fire.Mandela's family also talked to him until he was lowered into the earth and will have said 'Madiba, we are now burying you,' a tradition followed so the souls of the dead know where they are going in the afterlife.Earlier she arrived at the state ceremony ahead of her husband to honour the tradition of being home to receive his body in a room where his portrait stood above a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his remarkable life.Around 5,000 guests, including his ex-wife Winnie, the Prince of Wales, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and the American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, were also at the service.But the ceremony overran by nearly two hours as political figures gave a series of extended eulogies, meaning that his tribe's tradition that burials should be at noon 'when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest' had to change.The current leader of his beloved country, Jacob Zuma, told mourners Madiba, as he was adoringly called, was 'a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.'Today marks the end of extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago, the long walk to freedom has ended'.‘When people see goodness in a person they respond by reflecting goodnesss back at that person and on their fellow man and women,' Zuma said.'Thank you for being everything we wanted in a leader during a difficult period in our lives.'Your long walk to freedom has ended but in a physical sense our journey continues.'We have to take your legacy forward and in doing so we will continue taking lessons from your very rich and extraordinary life. He read a Mandela quote: ‘I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I fought it all through my life. I fight it now and will fight it to the end of my life.’He said he taught forgiveness and reconciliation.‘We learned from you that to build a new society, a new SA from the ashes of apartheid and colonialism we had to rise above anger and the human desire for retribution.’ Zuma also spoke of Mandela's dedication to gender equality which led to more women in public life.He said: ‘We dare not reverse your achievements in this regard.’‘As you take your final steps, South Africa will continue to rise.’He said the poor and working class have benefitted from the fruits of democracy.‘We commit to work more intensely to deal a decisive blow against poverty, inequality.’In a political eulogy he promised improved utilities, better jobs and working conditions as well as efficient and accountable public service.‘We will be able to complete this country’s transformation into a global force for social and economic leadership that you believed we were capable of being.‘Tata as your triumphant journey comes to an end we sincerely thank you.’‘We sincerely thank you, thank your family for sharing you with us and the world.’Zuma added that his children must be truly proud today to be ‘brought to this planet by a man so great and humble’. His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins below a lectern where speakers delivered eulogies. 'A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers,' said Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mandela's family.Nandi Mandela said her grandfather went barefoot to school in Qunu when he was boy and eventually became president and a figure of global import. 'It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life,' she said, recalling kind gestures by Mandela 'that made all those around him also want to do good.' In the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name: 'Go well, Madiba. go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race.' Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend's 'abundant reserves' of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed. 'He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking,' Kathrada said, his voice breaking at times. 'How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn't do so.'(dailymail.co.uk)ANN.Az