QUNU: Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, was laid to rest Sunday after a state funeral filled with tearful eulogies and strident vows to pursue his ideals of equality and justice.
Mandela’s casket was buried at his family plot in his rural boyhood home of Qunu, watched by his widow Graca Machel, ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, other family members and around 450 selected guests.
The interment followed a ceremonial state funeral that ran well over its allotted two hours, as speaker after speaker paid emotional tribute to the man who led South Africa out of the apartheid era.
“The person who lies here is South Africa’s greatest son,” said ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa in an opening address.
The former president’s burial marks the end of a 10-day mourning period for the country.
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last Thursday, aged 95.
In Qunu, helicopters bearing the South African flag and a formation flight by several jets took to the skies.
Earlier, a slow-marching military procession had escorted the coffin on a gun carriage from the venue where Mandela’s funeral service was held.
When it came to a halt, straps securing the coffin were removed, soldiers tilted the coffin and gently eased it off of the gun carriage.
Eight military pallbearers then pushed the coffin on a trolley towards the gravesite. Muffled drums played in the background.
Banks of white flowers flanked the coffin at the burial site.
The lowering of the coffin was not televised.
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.
A 21-gun salute also fired.- Sapa, AFP