Former president Nelson Mandela’s family, heads of state, traditional leaders, members of the religious community and army generals looked on as his coffin was lowered into the ground after a mourning period of close to ten days following his death last Thursday night.
The broadcast feed to which many South Africans had access, was cut off ahead of the moment today, for the sake of the family’s privacy.
Only a tenth of the people who attended the late struggle icon’s funeral were allowed into the burial site.
The state funeral was attended by 4 500 mourners of which 450 were allowed at the burial site for logistic reasons, according to programme director and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Unlike the funeral service, which had some light moments, there was a solemn silence over Qunu as army generals marched ahead of the gun carriage that transported Mandela’s coffin. The procession to the gravesite moved slowly.
While most of Mandela’s family members were taken to the gravesite by car, his grandson, Mandla, could be seen walking directly behind the carriage.
When the procession came to a halt, straps securing the coffin were removed, soldiers tilted the coffin and gently eased it off the gun carriage.
Eight military pallbearers then pushed the coffin onto a trolley towards the gravesite.
Muffled drums played in the background.
Banks of white flowers flanked the coffin at the burial site.
SA National Defence Force chaplain Reverend Monwabisi Jamangile said at the burial that Mandela had truly achieved ultimate freedom.
“We will remember Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” he said while praying for him before his coffin was lowered into the grave.
“Rest in peace. Yours was truly a long walk to freedom and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of your leader, God Almighty.”
Jamangile asked that God soothe the family in this time of grief, when their longing for Mandela became unbearable.
As soon as the flag was removed from the coffin and handed to Madiba’s widow, Graça Machel, a 21-gun salute was fired.
Helicopters bearing the South African flag and fighter-jets in formation flew overhead, as the nation bid farewell to its most beloved statesman.
Madiba, whose gravesite lies on the northern side of the Qunu farm, joins his three late children, Makgatho, Thembekile, and baby Makaziwe.
- Lubabalo Ngcukana and Sapa
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