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Mandela's Body Arrives in Hometown Village



Well-wishers have sung and danced as a hearse carrying former South African president Nelson Mandela's flag-draped coffin arrived in his ancestral home of Qunu.

Many people lined the route Saturday, as a security-led convoy carrying Mr. Mandela's body made its way from the airport in Mthatha to the nearby village. A helicopter buzzed overhead.

Mr. Mandela's body has been taken to his family compound in Qunu, a hilly region of the Eastern Cape with green fields.

VOA correspondent Scott Bobb followed the convoy as it made its way to Qunu. He said the onlookers' mood was one of excitement and jubilation, tinged with sadness.

A large tent has been set up in Qunu for Sunday's state funeral. Several thousand people are expected to attend, including heads of state, Prince Charles and other dignitaries.

One notable absence will be retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a critic of the ruling African National Congress party. A government spokeswoman denies Tutu was snubbed and says he would have been given accreditation for the ceremony if he had requested it.

Mr. Mandela's burial in his ancestral hometown will be mostly a small family affair, with only a few guests in attendance.



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

Mandla Mandela said his 95-year-old grandfather continued to work to improve people's lives even after his retirement from politics.



"This world icon worked tirelessly even after the achievement of democracy in South Africa to continue improving lives. Even as he retired from politics his attention shifted to social issues such as HIV and AIDS, and the wellbeing of the nation's children."



Earlier in the week, tens of thousands of mourners turned out to pay tribute to Mr. 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 Mr. Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first black president in 1994, after serving 27 years in prison for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.

On Friday, police struggled to control crowds that tried to push past barricades at the site as the three-day viewing period drew to a close. The former South African leader died December 5 following a lengthy illness.

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