UK & World News

  • 16 December 2013, 4:06

Mandela Funeral: End Of 'Extraordinary Journey'

Nelson Mandela, hailed as "Africa's greatest son" at an emotional state funeral, has been laid to rest near his childhood home.

The burial of the anti-apartheid icon followed a service attended by 4,000 mourners from across the world, at which South African President Jacob Zuma declared Mr Mandela's "extraordinary journey" was now over.

"It is the end of 95 glorious years of this freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa," he said during a poignant speech.

"He was a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just world order."

In contrast to the funeral, held in a huge tent at Mr Mandela's ancestral home of Qunu, in South Africa's Eastern Cape, the burial service was a smaller affair.

Several hundred of Mr Mandela's family and closest friends gathered at the grave site, as military jets and helicopters performed a fly past.

Television cameras cut away as officials lowered his body into the ground.

Earlier, Mr Mandela's coffin was carried to the funeral on a military carriage and covered with the South African flag, as a 21-gun salute echoed around his childhood home.

It was placed in front of a stage, on which 95 candles - one for each year of his life - were lit and a huge portrait of the smiling former president was displayed.

Mourners heard from political leaders, Mr Mandela's family and some of his closest friends during an emotional service that brought both tears and laughter.

Ahmed Kathrada, who was imprisoned on Robben Island for 26 years with Mr Mandela, gave a memorable speech, recalling a man he described as his "elder brother".

Speaking directly to his friend, he said: "What can we say ... in these, our last, final moments together?

"Your abundant reserves of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience, tolerance, equality and justice continually serve as a source of enormous strength to millions."

Holding back tears, he added: "My life is in a void and I don't know who to turn to."

Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian Prime Minister and chairman of the African Union, said: "His was a life of struggle in the face of unparalleled odds. A life of suffering in the hands of malicious perpetrators of injustice. A life of perseverance in the face of challenge.

"But we are not mourning. We are celebrating humanity at its finest. We should find consolation that his legacy will live on for eternity."

Jakaya Kikwete, the President of Tanzania, described Mr Mandela as "our leader, our hero, our icon and our father", while Kenneth Kaunda, the former president of Zambia, added: "As we go on without Madiba ... let us remember the love he had for us all. Without that, we cannot succeed."

High-profile guests included businessman Sir Richard Branson, TV chat show host Oprah Winfrey and actor Idris Elba, who plays Mr Mandela in a forthcoming film about his life, while prominent US civil rights activist Reverend Jessie Jackson and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also made the journey.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was in the audience after earlier claiming he had not received an invitation, while the Prince of Wales attended on behalf of the Queen.

During his speech, Mr Zuma described his predecessor as a man "so great and yet so humble".

"We wish to express two simple words," he said. "Thank you. Thank you for being everything we wanted and needed in a leader during a critical period in our lives."

He added: "We'll cherish every moment we spent with you.

"You were an exceptional human being and you will remain our guiding light as we continue our journey to build the South Africa of your dreams."

As the funeral was beamed to specially erected big screens on hillsides around Mr Mandela's home, warriors, dressed in their colourful tribal outfits, gathered to sing, dance and clap.

Sky News' Special Correspondent Alex Crawford, in Qunu, said: "The authorities and the Mandela family have always insisted this should be a coming together of a huge, important state funeral with all its pomp and ceremony, and the traditions of Mr Mandela's tribe.

"These past 10 days have been a chance not just for local people to grieve and to mourn, but also to remember how much of a colossus this man was, both in world politics and South African history."

Mr Mandela's body arrived in South Africa's Eastern Cape on board a military plane, escorted by two fighter jets.

Tens of thousands of people lined the roads as the funeral procession made the short journey from Mthatha airport to Qunu, although some were angry the cortege did not stop to allow them time to pay their respects.

Preparations for service - the first ever state funeral in South Africa - were also marred by a public spat between the country's government and Mr Tutu, one of the most prominent survivors in the long struggle against apartheid.

Mr Tutu, a Nobel laureate who has been critical of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, initially said he was not invited - an apparent snub denied by the government.

More than 100,000 people saw Mr Mandela's body lying in state in Pretoria over the last three days, but some had to be turned away.

The former leader, who was imprisoned for 27 years for opposing racist apartheid before emerging in 1990 to forge a new democratic South Africa, died on December 5.

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