News / Africa

    Qunu Celebrates Life of Its Favorite Son

    A screengrab taken from the South African Broadcasting Corporation live feed shows members of the South African armed forces standing around the coffin of late former President Nelson Mandela before it is lowered into the grave during his funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
    A screengrab taken from the South African Broadcasting Corporation live feed shows members of the South African armed forces standing around the coffin of late former President Nelson Mandela before it is lowered into the grave during his funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
    Hannah McNeish
    Driving through South Africa's Eastern Cape to Qunu was like being in a constant carwash, with five days of sheet-like rain turning asphalt into puddles and dirt roads into rivers. The local people attributed this highly unseasonal and stupendous amount of water to Nelson Mandela's death, as in his Xhosa culture rains before a funeral mean the heavens are preparing to greet a great man.

    Others on a journey spanning more than 700 kilometers south from Johannesburg said that the gods were crying.  Their tears were so great that a chocolate-colored river almost touched the bridge that links the village of Mqhekewenzi, where Mandela's adoptive Thembu royal family live, to the rest of the world.

    Chief Zanomthetho Mtirara poses with his leopard skin and a young picture of his adoptive "grandfather" Nelson Mandela, who was taken in by the Thembu royal family at the age of 9 when his father died. (Hannah McNeish/VOA)Chief Zanomthetho Mtirara poses with his leopard skin and a young picture of his adoptive "grandfather" Nelson Mandela, who was taken in by the Thembu royal family at the age of 9 when his father died. (Hannah McNeish/VOA)
    x
    Chief Zanomthetho Mtirara poses with his leopard skin and a young picture of his adoptive "grandfather" Nelson Mandela, who was taken in by the Thembu royal family at the age of 9 when his father died. (Hannah McNeish/VOA)
    Chief Zanomthetho Mtirara poses with his leopard skin and a young picture of his adoptive "grandfather" Nelson Mandela, who was taken in by the Thembu royal family at the age of 9 when his father died. (Hannah McNeish/VOA)
    The Thembu King took in the future president at age nine, after his father died, and nicknamed him “Tatomkhalu,” or grandfather.  Mandela became just that to the king's grandson, Chief Zanomthetho Mtirara.  The chief promised this week that as soon as Mandela's body was brought back to his boyhood village of Qunu, the driving rains that rendered umbrellas and mascara so useless would clear up.

    “You wait, on Saturday the weather will change and it will be beautiful,” he said.

    And he was right.  The sun beamed down on an almost cloudless Qunu.  Sodden sheep scattered themselves across the hilltops as Mandela's coffin, flanked by police motorbikes and followed by an array of large military vehicles, arrived at his modern house perched atop a hillside otherwise full of small conical homes.

    After a week of dismal weather ruining photos, on Sunday the small village literally glowed, and faces beamed as people mourned the father of the rainbow nation.

    • In this video frame grab, military officers escort former South African President Nelson Mandela's casket as it arrives at his burial site following his funeral service in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
    • Former South African President Nelson Mandela's coffin arrives at the family gravesite for burial at his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province, 900 km (559 miles) south of Johannesburg.
    • A woman wipes away a tear while watching the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela on a big screen at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
    • Three helicopters fly over the gravesite during the burial of Nelson Mandela in his hometown Qunu.
    • Military personnel line the route as former South African President Nelson Mandela's casket is taken to its burial place in Qunu.
    • General view of the tent where the funeral service for former South African president Nelson Mandela is taking place in Qunu.
    • South African President Jacob Zuma sits between Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela's former wife, and Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, right, attend the funeral service for former president in Qunu.
    • People stand outside the dome where the funeral of former South African president Nelson Mandela is taking place in Qunu.
    • Chief Mantanzima speaks during the funeral service for former South African president Nelson Mandela in Qunu.
    • The casket bearing the remains of former South African President Nelson Mandela is brought into a tent for his funeral service for in Qunu.
    • Archbishop Desmond Tutu is hugged as he arrives for the funeral service for Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa.
    • Members of the Mdakane family watch a television in their home showing the funeral service of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela in the Soweto township, Johannesburg.
    • Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, left, Nelson Mandela's former wife, left and Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel stand over the former South African president's casket during his funeral service in Qunu.
    • British entrepreneur Richard Branson, right and television host Oprah Winfrey attend the funeral service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu.
    • Two people follow the proceedings of Nelson Mandela's funeral on a big screen in Nelson Mandela square in Sandton, Johannesburg.

    One of eight gunners chosen to fire the 21-gun salute at Mandela's gravesite, Lance Bombadier Fumani Bulebesi, was bright and sunny despite having been up since 2 a.m. to guard the site next to the funeral tent.

    She remembers the call coming in to ask her to take part in Mandela's send off.  "It was a good feeling.  He was a hero and he is still a hero for us,” she said.

    Her colleague Captain Tozuma Mali had a premonition that she would get sent to Qunu to fire the guns, but said she would have come anyway.  “I am who I am today because of this man.  Because he made the change.  Long live the spirit of Nelson Mandela,” she said.

    Dickson Gangatele, 71, chose to watch the funeral on TV as his eyesight was too poor to join the rest of Qunu's residents, who had turned out to try to sneak a glimpse of the proceedings in a large white tent in a field hundreds of meters away.

    He recalls a conversation he had with Mandela in 1995, soon after the end of apartheid. 

    “When you went to Robben Island we thought you would give up.  We thought Nelson Mandela was wasting his time.  These whites were never going to go.  But you did not give up, you were a strong man," he says he told the late president.  "And he shook my hand and smiled.”

    For his daughter Weziwe Gangatale, the fact that none of Qunu's residents could take part in Sunday's funeral was “strange” for a man who used to hand out Christmas presents to the local children at his home on top of the hill.

    “Mandela was living with us all these years, and we are not even in the funeral.  It was too controlled and people here say it is the government's fault,” she said.

    Mandela's death attracted dignitaries from across the globe, but also many ordinary South Africans like Pumane Ngocwane, who drove for 12 hours to be in Qunu.

    “My neighbors, when I told them I was going to Qunu, said that I would not see anything.  But here I am talking to people from all over the world,” she said, wearing a dress she had made especially for the event.

    “I did not want to watch this on TV.  I wanted to see things live.  I wanted to put my foot in Qunu and feel the soil,” she said.

    A four-person band named after Mandela's clan, “The Madiba Beat Crew” had been dancing from the wee hours outside his home in Johannesburg's upscale Houghton district when VOA met them nine days ago.  They used all their profits from selling Mandela memorabilia to get to Qunu in their home state, as in Xhosa culture, you have to pay your respects to a great man in person; the TV does not suffice.

    “Now we have no money for fuel to get back,” said singer Thandie Bushala, with a wide grin on her face as she stomped out another Mandela tribute just meters from his home.

    For the moment, she dances in the sun - a sign, perhaps that Madiba is now in heaven and is looking down on his village and his nation as they begin to learn how to get along without him.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora