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

Masked men robbed armored car in Mayfair, police…

Two masked men made off with more than $100,000 this morning after an armored car heist in Northeast Philadelphia, police said.

International

Putin fields question from U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of intelligence eavesdropping, asked Russian President Vladimir Putin a question on Thursday during…

Local

Teen in 'Jihad Jane' terror case to be…

A judge on Thursday is set to sentence a high school student who pleaded guilty to helping al Qaeda and working with the woman known as "Jihad Jane."

National

Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…

The Word

'Mrs. Doubtfire' sequel in the works

Finally, Hollywood is making your dreams come true - they're making that "Mrs. Doubtfire" sequel you've been clamoring for all these years.

The Word

Lawsuit accuses 'X-Men' director Bryan Singer of raping…

A new lawsuit accuses director Bryan Singer of sexual assault against a minor.

Movies

The Cannes Film Festival announces its 2014 lineup

The lineup of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival was announced this morning, promising the latest from a slew of usual (and some unusual) suspects.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

NHL

Flyers, Rangers meet in playoffs for 11th time

The Flyers and Rangers will start a new chapter in a historic rivalry.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers…

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers and Braves right behind

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…

Wellbeing

Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.