Mandela’s body begins journey to funeral site in ancestral village

The coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela is escorted aboard a military cargo plane after a send-off ceremony at Waterkloof Air Force base in Pretoria. Credit: Reuters
The coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela is escorted aboard a military cargo plane after a send-off ceremony at Waterkloof Air Force base in Pretoria.
Credit: Reuters

Nelson Mandela’s body was being flown on Saturday to South Africa’s Eastern Cape region, headed for a state funeral on Sunday in his ancestral village after a send-off for the anti-apartheid hero by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

With revolutionary songs, some raised fists and tributes to “Comrade Mandela”, the former liberation movement to which Mandela had dedicated his life said farewell at the Waterkloof airforce base in the capital of Pretoria.

“Go well ‘Tata’, you have played your part,” South African President and ANC leader Jacob Zuma said in a eulogy using the Xhosa word for “father”. He recalled Mandela’s life as a freedom fighter in the armed struggle against white minority rule, for which he was put in jail for 27 years.

“We will always remember you,” Zuma said, before bellowing the ANC struggle slogan of “Amandla” (Power).

The ANC send-off led by Zuma, attended by Mandela’s widow Graca Machel and his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, came after nine days of intense and emotion-charged mourning and memorial activities held in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

This included three days of lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday to Friday in which more than 100,000 people queued for hours to say a last personal goodbye to the nation’s first black president.

One of Mandela’s grandchildren, Mandla, thanked those who had come to pay their respects to the Nobel peace laureate.

“I have witnessed his army, I have witnessed his people, I have witnessed ordinary South Africans who walked this long walk to freedom with him and I can assure the African National Congress today that the future of this country looks bright.”

Escorted by fighter jets, Mandela’s body was being flown by South Africa’s airforce to his Eastern Cape home region, where it would be taken to the family home at Qunu, a village among rolling green hills, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg.

There, a state funeral will take place on Sunday combining military pomp and traditional rites of Mandela’s Xhosa abaThembu clan. It will be attended by family members, national leaders and foreign guests including Britain’s Prince Charles and U.S. civil rights activist Reverend Jessie Jackson.

In Saturday’s ANC homage, the most overtly political event of the mourning period since Mandela died on December 5 aged 95, leaders of the ruling party and allied trade unions hailed Mandela as a determined “soldier” and revolutionary.

They spoke before Mandela’s coffin, draped in the green and yellow ANC flag in an airport hangar prepared for the event.

The ANC event was in deep contrast to Tuesday’s mass public memorial in Johannesburg where Zuma, who has ruled since 2009, was subjected to a humiliating barrage of boos and jeers, a worrying sign for the ruling party six months before elections.

“WE NEED MORE MADIBAS”

There was no such dissonant note on Saturday, with speaker after speaker hailing the lifelong link between the former president and the ANC which will be one of the party’s strongest campaigning pillars for the coming elections.

Representatives from left-wing parties, such as Angola’s MPLA, and Ireland’s Sinn Fein, attended Saturday’s homage.

Zuma, who is widely criticized for being weak and ineffective, addressed the leadership issue in his speech.

“The question is, can we produce as ANC other ‘Madibas’?” he asked, using Mandela’s Xhosa clan name.

“We need more Madibas so that our country can prosper. Yes we are free, but the challenges of inequality remain.”

It is precisely his government’s perceived failure to tackle this inequality, manifested in still widespread poverty and chronic joblessness, which has fed dissatisfaction with Zuma and the ANC that will erode their support in the coming vote. But the party that has governed since the end of apartheid in 1994 is expected to comfortably win the elections.

Sunday’s funeral at Qunu, planned as more intimate than the mass memorial held on Tuesday attended by a host of world leaders, will bring together members of Mandela’s family and Xhosa abaThembu clan and a smaller group of dignitaries.

These include African and Caribbean leaders, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari, Lesotho’s King Letsie III and former French Prime Ministers Lionel Jospin and Alain Juppe.

Mandela’s casket will be taken in military procession from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape about 45 km to Qunu, allowing locals a chance to say goodbye to their most famous son.

The week of mourning since Mandela’s death has not been without controversy.

Besides the booing of Zuma, there has also been a storm of outrage over a sign-language interpreter accused of miming nonsense at the same memorial. The signer has defended himself, saying he suffered a schizophrenic episode.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Arts

EXCLUSIVE: Backstage with Adam Jacobs at 'Aladdin' on…

Metro shadowed Adam Jacobs backstage at "Aladdin" on Broadway.

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

Movies

Review: Bickering family dramedy 'This is Where I…

A talented cast sits Shiva in the bickering family dramedy "This is Where I Leave You," although it's more sap than yuks.

NFL

J.J. Watt poses unique challenges to struggling Giants…

Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league, is the leader of a surprising Texans (2-0) team that has already matched last season’s win total.

NFL

Eric Decker 'unlikely to play' against Bears: Source

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's status for Monday night’s game against the Bears is in doubt after he missed practice again Wednesday.

NFL

Preston Parker, not Odell Beckham, will replace Jerrel…

Tom Coughlin noted the next man up will be unheralded veteran Preston Parker.

NFL

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…