News / Africa

African Traditions, Military Pomp for Mandela Burial

A general view shows funeral preparations being made around the property of late former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, South Africa, Dec. 12, 2013.
A general view shows funeral preparations being made around the property of late former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, South Africa, Dec. 12, 2013.
Reuters
— Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday in an elaborate ceremony combining a state funeral and all its military pomp with the traditional burial rituals of his Xhosa clan to ensure he has an easy transition into the afterworld.

Many South Africans will revere Mandela, who during his life became a global symbol of peace and reconciliation, even more now that he has died, since ancestors are widely believed to have a guiding, protective role over the living.

Around 46 percent of the population practices traditional African religions, according to a 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a Washington-based research center.

Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel leaves after viewing the casket at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec. 11, 2013.Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel leaves after viewing the casket at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec. 11, 2013.
x
Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel leaves after viewing the casket at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec. 11, 2013.
Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel leaves after viewing the casket at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec. 11, 2013.
Mandela, of the abaThembu people and South Africa's first black president, died a week ago at the age of 95. Thousands of people have filed passed his body as it lies in state in Pretoria this week.

He will be buried by his family following their traditional burial rites on Sunday in Qunu, their ancestral home in the rural Eastern Cape province, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg.

If the rites are not carried out, the abaThembu believe the dead will come back in spirit to demand they are performed.

“We as Africans have rites of passage, whether it is a birth, marriage or funeral. Mandela will be sent off into the spiritual world so that he is welcomed in the world of ancestors. And also so that he doesn't get angry,” said Nokuzola Mndende, a scholar of African religion.

“His wrath won't be on the state if these ceremonies don't take place, it will be on his children,” Mndende said.

A man who for many embodied the Christian values of forgiveness, Mandela was the product of Xhosa traditional upbringing and Methodist schooling.

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela spoke approvingly of the Xhosa rituals which his mother, a convert to the Methodist faith, resisted but his father followed, presiding over slaughter rituals and other traditional rites.

Cattle slaughter

For the abaThembu, the ritual of accompanying Mandela's spirit will include the slaughtering of an ox in the early hours of Saturday morning before receiving his body, flown in from Pretoria.

The ox meat is then boiled without spices in big, iron black pots in open fires outside.

“On Saturday, once the body has been received, the elders will speak and perform some rituals and then the body will spend the night at the home,” said Chief Mfundo Mtirara, spokesman for the abaThembu royal house.

Soldiers patrol on the edge of the property of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, Dec. 12, 2013.Soldiers patrol on the edge of the property of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, Dec. 12, 2013.
x
Soldiers patrol on the edge of the property of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, Dec. 12, 2013.
Soldiers patrol on the edge of the property of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Eastern Cape, Dec. 12, 2013.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, before the funeral officially begins, another ox will be slaughtered as part of the family ritual of saying goodbye.

After that Mandela's body will be handed over to the church and then to President Jacob Zuma for the state funeral.

Finally King Dalindyebo, king of Mandela's clan, is expected to perform salutations to the dead that will send Mandela to the world of the ancestors.

The king's men will then join him in a last salutation before everyone returns home to wash their hands outside the family yard and have lunch.

A week later, the family take part in a ritual to “wash the spades” that dug his grave and, after a year has passed, another ox is slaughtered and the mourners remove their black mourning garb.

South Africa remembers Nelson Mandela

  • A card and note hang on the fence surrounding the Nelson Mandela National Museum, Mandela's former home, in Soweto, Dec. 12, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A young boy traces the letters on the Vilakasi Street sign outside of Nelson Mandela's home in Soweto, now the Nelson Mandela National Museum, Dec. 12, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Members of the Harley Owners Group, from chapters in Johannesburg and surrounding cities, visited Nelson Mandela's former home in the township of Soweto, Dec. 12, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A brass band marches through the streets in front of Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A group of mourners dance outside Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A family takes a photo in front of Nelson Mandela's home, where a makeshift memorial was set up in the street, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Mourners left flowers, posters, poems and cards, among other things, at a makeshift memorial outside of Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • A memorial site set up in Nelson Mandela Square, outside of the Sandton City Mall in Sandton, a suburb north of Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Worshipers at the Melrose Hindu Temple during the national day of worship and prayer for Nelson Mandela, Dec. 8, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • People line up outside of the Union Buildings in Pretoria to sign a condolences book, Dec 6, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)
  • Mourners sign a condolences book outside of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec 6, 2013. (Peter Cox for VOA)

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid