Accessibility links

Thousands Attend Nelson Mandela's Funeral

  • VOA News

Former South African president Nelson Mandela was laid to rest after 10 days of mourning for the revered anti-apartheid leader.

Under a mostly sunny blue sky, a military procession carried Mandela's casket to a gravesite in his rural hometown of Qunu on Sunday.

After a brief service, soldiers fired a 21-round salute, military planes flew overhead and the body was lowered into its grave.

Earlier, more than 4,000 attended an emotional funeral program Sunday, where Mandela's granddaughter and several African presidents paid final tribute to the anti-apartheid leader, who died 10 days ago at age 95.

Friends, world leaders and family members hailed Mandela as a man who transformed his family, his country and the world in a somber funeral service.

Heads of state and international celebrities were among the thousands of people who descended on Qunu.

Mourners included Oprah Winfrey, billionaire Richard Branson and numerous South African activists who assisted Mandela in the struggle to end the racist apartheid regime. He spent 27 years in prison for his opposition and emerged to be elected South Africa's first black president, in 1994.

South African President Jacob Zuma called his predecessor "a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength, and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just and equitable world order."

Family representative Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima mentioned politics in his speech, criticizing those who booed current president Jacob Zuma at a memorial service this week.

"What we saw on Tuesday at FNB Stadium should never be seen again in this country," he told mourners in the Xhosa language.

Some of the most moving tributes came from those who described Mandela not as a 20th century colossus, but as a friend and beloved relative.

"I don't consider him my friend. He was my older brother," said Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who spent time at Robben Island prison with Mandela.

Granddaughter Nandi Mandela described Mandela as a strict grandfather who loved telling stories of his childhood.

She finished her tribute by saying in Xhosa: "go well Madiba….go well to the land of our ancestors, you have ran your race."

Mandela's body will be buried in a private plot in accordance with traditional practices later today.

The ruling African National Congress party held a memorial service for the late president at Waterkloof air base near Johannesburg before the remains were flown to the Eastern Cape Province.

This past week, tens of thousands of mourners turned out to pay tribute to Mandela, while his body was displayed in Pretoria's Union Buildings.

The Union Buildings are South Africa's seat of government, and the same place where Mandela was sworn in as the country's first black president in 1994, after serving 27 years in prison for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.