Qunu, Dec 15 (): Nelson Mandela’s body reached his ancestral village ahead of a traditional burial on Sunday, the final part in his exceptional 95-year journey.
The body of former South African President Nelson Mandela was flown to his native city, Qunu, in the Eastern Cape Province on Saturday from Pretoria, where he was laid down for three days from Wednesday to Friday when more than 100,000 people queued for hours to say a last personal goodbye to the nation’s first black president.
In an emotional ceremony on Saturday, the body of Mandela was handed by the military to the African National Congress, the party he led to victory as South Africa’s first black president in 1994, ending white rule.
At a military base near the capital, Pretoria, mourners paid respects at his coffin, draped in the black, gold and green flag of the ANC. President Jacob G Zuma said in his tribute that they were sending him back to Qunu, the village where Mandela grew up and where he will be buried.
The plane was led by two fighter jets, lifting off from Waterkloof air base outside Pretoria in bright sunlight. In Mthatha, the plane was greeted with full military honours, and Mandela’s body was set to be paraded through the city so that residents could pay their respects.
Hundreds of residents gathered along the roads leading from Mthatha to Qunu, singing, clapping and waving South African flags, hoping to catch a last glimpse of Mandela as his cortege drove by.
After ending 10 days of national mourning and global tributes, Mandela, the prisoner-turned-president who transformed his country and inspired the world, will be buried near a farm house in his home town.
On Sunday, a state funeral will take place combining military pomp and traditional rites of Mandela’s Xhosa aba Thembu clan. It will be attended by family members, national leaders and foreign guests including Britain’s Prince Charles and U.S. civil rights activist Reverend Jessie Jackson.