Pretoria, Dec 15: The world’s anti-apartheid icon and South Africa’s first non-white president Nelson Mandela was Sunday laid to rest at his ancestral home in Qunu village in Eastern Cape province at a state funeral.
Mandela’s body was placed in his final resting place, alongside his other family members at the Mandela family farm in rural Qunu, South Africa’s government news agency SA News reported.
Traditional rituals were performed to ensure Mandela is received by his ancestors.
The funeral marked the end of a 10-day mourning period, declared by President Jacob Zuma after the elderly statesman passed away at his home Dec 5 in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.
Following a beautiful and sombre funeral service at a specially-erected marquee earlier, Mandela’s body, draped in the South African national flag, was taken to the family farm.
Once the family members and president were seated, military officials undraped the casket and the flag was ceremoniously folded and handed to Zuma, who handed it to Mandela’s widow Graca Machel.
The national anthem was played and the South African Air Force flew a salute flight before the last post was sounded.
The burial itself was not telecast and no pictures were allowed – to afford the family and dignitaries to say their personal and final goodbyes in private.
Earlier, speakers hailed Mandela at the funeral service, with all paying moving tributes to South Africa’s first democratically elected non-white president.
Among the dignitaries present were current and former heads of state, eminent people, including Britain’s Prince Charles, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sinn FÃ©in leader Gerry Adams, businessman Richard Branson and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
South Africa’s Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu also attended Mandela’s funeral.
Earlier, Tutu said he cancelled his flight to the Eastern Cape to attend Mandela’s funeral after he received no indication that his name was on the guest list.
South African President Jacob Zuma said the government and the country will take forward the legacy of Mandela.
Zuma also thanked the Mandela family for their perseverance over the years when the world icon spent 27 years in jail during the apartheid regime.
“As your journey today, ours must continue. One thing we can assure you today, as you take your final steps, is that South Africa will continue to rise,” Zuma said.
Describing Mandela as a “fountain of wisdom, pillar of strength and a beacon of hope”, Zuma said Mandela taught the country to live together, regardless of race.
Ahmed Kathrada, the Indian-origin veteran anti-apartheid activist and for years aide to Nelson Mandela, moved many mourners to tears when he paid a poignant tribute to the late statesman.
“When Walter (Sisulu) died, I lost a father, when you died I lost a brother, now I don’t know who to turn to,” Kathrada said, facing Mandela’s casket.
Walter Sisulu was a South African anti-apartheid activist and member of the African National Congress (ANC).
Kathrada and Mandela were both imprisoned in Robben Island for their political views.
Malawi’s President Joyce Banda said she was inspired by Mandela, who had a spirit of forgiveness.
African Union chair and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Mandela’s life was a record of all the trials the African countries had to endure under colonialism.
Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete said the people of Tanzania have lost a great friend, a great comrade in arms.