World News

Mandela's Body Arrives in Hometown Village



The body of late South African president Nelson Mandela has been taken to his ancestral home of Qunu, where on Sunday thousands of people will gather for his state funeral and burial.

Well-wishers waved flags and cheered on Saturday as a hearst carrying Mr. Mandela's flag-draped coffin made its way from the airport in Mthatha to the nearby village of Qunu.

VOA correspondent Scott Bobb was among those who saw the convoy pass. He says the mood was one of excitement and jubilation, tinged with sadness.



"Many of the people that I spoke to said they were just happy that he was coming home. Everywhere you turned, there was singing and dancing and just impromptu songs with his name in it, struggle songs with the anti-apartheid struggle. Songs that were adapted with his name inserted."



Bobb says some onlookers had waited for as long as eight hours to see Mr. Mandela's convoy pass.

Mr. Mandela's body is now at his family compound in Qunu, a hilly region of the Eastern Cape with green fields.

A large tent has been set up 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 "gate crash" 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 welcome 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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