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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.

Some cheered and waved the South African flag as the convoy passed by, with a helicopter buzzing 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. Heads of state, Prince Charles and other dignitaries are among those expected to attend.

At a Saturday briefing, Minister for the presidency Collins Chabane said about 4,500 people are expected to attend the funeral and about 450 people are expected to witness his burial in Qunu.

One notable absence will be Mr. Mandela's long-time friend, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In a Saturday statement, Tutu said he did not receive a formal invitation and did not want to "gatecrash" the funeral of his fellow Nobel laureate.

Chabane responded, saying the government did not issue invitations to any guests, and anyone who wanted to attend the funeral was welcomed to do so.

Some have viewed the lack of a formal invitation to Tutu's as a snub. The religious icon has been an outspoken critic of the ruling African National Congress party.

The ANC 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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