15 December 2013

South Africa: Madiba to Be Laid to Rest

As a fog settled over the green rolling hills of Qunu early on Sunday morning, the sun rose over the farm where the late former President Nelson Mandela grew up.

At about 8am, the official funeral service of the late former President Nelson Mandela will get underway and it is expected to last for about two hours.

Guests and dignitaries have since the early hours of this morning - the 10th and final day of the mourning period - been using a park-and-ride facility at the Walter Sisulu University to get on a bus to the funeral venue.

Some 4000 people have been invited to attend the official funeral of the anti-apartheid hero, including family members, African leaders and several current and former Heads of State.

The UK's Prince Charles and billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe landed at Mthatha airport just after 5am and are making their way to Qunu.

Malawi President Joyce banda will attend and represent the Southern African Development Community (SADC) while Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete will represent former liberation movements

Local people from Qunu will also be accommodated, but the numbers will be limited due to space.

A massive marquee structure has been erected at the former statesman's farm, where a man could be seen whistling to a herd of cows that were grazing on the Qunu slopes.

After the funeral service, just after noon, Madiba will be laid to rest in a private ceremony only attended by family and a few guests.

This will end the 10-day mourning period for the Father of the Nation as declared by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday last week.

Madiba passed away in the company of his family at around 8.50pm on 5 December at his home in Houghton.

An unprecedented number of tributes poured in from all corners of the world and thousands of mourners gathered at the house in Johannesburg to pay their last respects. Mourners held night vigils, laying flowers and lighting candles, while Madiba's body was prepared at 1 Military Hospital for lying in state.

On Tuesday, a massive memorial service was held at FNB Stadium. Over 100 current and former Heads of State and Government, kings, sheiks, dignitaries and government representatives attended, as well as tens of thousands of South Africans who danced and sang in celebration of Madiba's extraordinary life.

Madiba's body was transported in a cortege to the Union Buildings, morning and afternoon for three days, where he lay in state at the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre under a specially erected structure.

Government said that about 100 000 members of the public were able to file pass Madiba's open casket to say their final goodbyes.

On Saturday, following a moving service by the African National Congress, Madiba left the capital city for the last time. His body was flown from Waterkloof Air Force Base to Mthatha Airport and in a procession he made his way to his home in Qunu.

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