South Africa’s first black President Nelson Mandela was today laid to rest with full state honours in his childhood village after teary-eyed friends and family members bid adieu to the anti-apartheid icon whose courage and freedom struggle turned him into a giant of history.
A military escort carried Mandela’s casket to the family plot where Mandela was accorded a traditional burial,marking the end of an exceptional journey for the prisoner-turned- president who transformed South Africa.
The South African flag was removed from his casket,which was lowered into the ground followed by a traditional ceremony.
South African military jets and helicopters flew over Mandela’s casket was placed over the grave. South African television showed the casket at the family gravesite,but stopped broadcasting the event before the casket was lowered.
The burial brought down the curtain on ten days of national mourning and memorial events for the global peace icon.
Mandela died on December 5 aged 95 after a protracted illness.
Tribal leaders wrapped in animal skins joined dignitaries in dark suits for the walk toward the burial grounds. Soldiers lined the route as mourners slowly made their way to the gravesite atop a hill overlooking the valleys of Qunu.
Before making their way to the site,mourners attended a funeral service in a tent set up for the event. Ninety-five candles glowed at the funeral service,one for each year of his life.
With restricted access to facilities in the rural area,only about 4,500 people were allowed at the service and only about a tenth of those were at the actual burial site.
President Jacob Zuma,speaking at the funeral service,pledged to fulfil Mandela’s ideals of ridding South Africa of poverty,unemployment,lack of educational facilities and social ills such as crime and violence.
Several heads of state or their representatives,including UK’s Prince Charles,Iranian Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari and presidents of several African nations,were present at the solemn event.
Most heads of state had opted to attend the official memorial service last Tuesday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg,where over 80,000 people braved rain to join 91 world leaders,including President Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart Barack Obama,in paying tributes to Mandela.