Qunu — The cortege of the late former President Nelson Mandela has arrived at his residence in Qunu, where he will be laid to rest on Sunday.
The entourage, led by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), arrived just after 4pm.
It made its way to the main family home, overlooking the N2 road, linking the village to the nearby town of Mthatha. There was a cheerful mood as the hearse passed the scores of people who had gathered along the route since midday. Some raised their right fists while others simply took pictures and videos with their cell phones.
But for one woman, seeing Madiba's coffin wrapped in the South African flag was just too much. She cried uncontrollably and was given water and comforted by other bystanders.
The woman later said Mandela was like a father figure to her. "Whenever he was in Qunu for Christmas, my mother would take me there to collect presents. I've done that since I was 12, and I'm 22 now," she said, fighting back tears. Children as young as five, who clearly were not sure what was taking place, simply cheered on for the helicopters that flew over the area as the entourage made its way to the Mandela family compound.
Military personnel and horse-mounted police patrolled the area, preventing people from moving towards the residence.
The Mandela's family confirmed this week that Thembu rituals will be performed when elders welcome Mandela's remains at home. Family spokesperson Bantu Holomisa told SAnews in Qunu on Friday that the abaThembu King, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, was expected to lead a group of traditional leaders as well as Mandela elders in welcoming him home.
This will also ensure that Mandela is sent to the world of the ancestors.
According to Xhosa custom, it is important that the ritual is performed and that the ancestors are informed of the arrival of Mandela's remains. Xhosa speakers are divided into several groups, including the abaThembu people, of which Mandela is a member.
Mandela was a member of the AbaThembu royal family. As such during the ritual ceremony to welcome him home, Abathembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo will shout "Aaah! Dalibhunga," three times as he salutes him.
The day after the funeral, the Mandela family will organise a cleansing ceremony as dictated by tradition where a sheep will be slaughtered. This will be strictly a family affair.
A week later, there will be another ceremony called ukuhlanjwa kwepeki (meaning washing the equipment that was used to dig the graves). This is a common practice in Xhosa culture
Meanwhile, a night vigil has been organised at the nearby Walter Sisulu University, situated in central Mthatha.
It is expected to be attended by senior members of the ruling African National Congress, its alliance partners in Cosatu and the SA Comunist Party as well as members of civil society. - SAnews.gov.za