South Africa buried its most famous son Nelson Mandela yesterday, laying to rest an icon of national liberation.
Mr Mandela’s family were joined by several hundred friends and world leaders as a 21-gun salute and military fly-by saw him into the ground at his ancestral home in Qunu, Eastern Cape.
The funeral procession and ceremony was relayed around the world, but cut away just before the coffin was lowered at the request of the Mandela family.
Family representative Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima said: “A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers. We thank them for lending us such an icon.”
South African President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to his predecessor, the first democratically elected leader of the “rainbow nation.”
“It is the end of an extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago,” Mr Zuma said.
“A fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength, and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.
“Your long walk to freedom has ended but our own journey continues. We wish today to express two simple words — thank you.”
He vowed to continue the fight for “non-racialism and a South Africa that truly belongs to all its citizens.”
Mourners wiped tears from their eyes as Ahmed Kathrada, who was jailed with Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists on Robben Island, recalled seeing the former president on his death bed.
“He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking,” he said with difficulty.
“How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn’t do so.”
He added: “Today mingled with our grief is the enormous pride that one of our own has during his lifetime and now in your death united the people of South Africa and the entire world on a scale never before experienced in history.”
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