Nelson Mandela

South Africa's 'great son' Nelson Mandela buried in family plot at his boyhood home

'Great son' of South Africa is buried in family plot at his boyhood home

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 4:58am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 12:41pm

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and most revered citizen, was laid to rest yesterday at his rural home next to the remains of three of his six children, ending a 10-day official mourning period.

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 about 450 selected guests.

Military jets and helicopters with South African flags flew over the pallbearers. About 4,500 relatives, friends and colleagues bid farewell to Mandela at a funeral service in a giant marquee erected in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape province, before military pallbearers removed his coffin for burial.

Mandela's portrait looked over the assembly in the white tent from behind a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his remarkable life.

Watch: Nelson Mandela's historic journey comes to an end in Qunu

His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins below a lectern where speakers delivered eulogies. "It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa," President Jacob Zuma said after leading mourners in a song from the fight against apartheid.

"We are truly honoured to be part of the final journey of this great son of our country."

Mandela's coffin was then driven to the hillside gravesite accompanied by a military band and guard of honour.

His widow Graca Machel was presented with the flag, before final prayers were said.

Dignitaries who attended the service included Prince Charles from Britain, US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, US television celebrity Oprah Winfrey, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Prince Albert of Monaco.

The frail and ageing leaders of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle - George Bizos, Desmond Tutu and Ahmed Kathrada - also attended.

Kathrada's voice broke with emotion as he delivered a eulogy for his old friend.

The funeral service was broadcast live to stadiums and other venues around the country.

One of the screenings took place at Mvezo, Mandela's birthplace roughly 32 kilometres from Qunu, where about 50 mourners gathered in a tent.