Nelson Mandela’s remains arrive in boyhood village of Qunu ahead of state funeral

Updated 15 December 2013, 1:17 AEST

The body of Nelson Mandela has arrived at his ancestral home village of Qunu in South Africa’s Eastern Cape ahead of the anti-apartheid leader and former president’s state funeral.

Mourners lined the streets as the hearse carrying Mandela’s remains made its way to Qunu. (Credit: AFP)

The body of Nelson Mandela has arrived at his ancestral home village of Qunu in South Africa’s Eastern Cape ahead of the anti-apartheid leader and former president’s state funeral later today (Australian time).

Mandela’s remains were flown to Mthatha from Pretoria’s Waterkloof air force base after spending three days lying in state.

The coffin carrying the body of South Africa’s first black president was then driven in a hearse from Mthatha airport, 700km south of Johannesburg, with a ceremonial military escort and cheered by crowds lining parts of the road.

Compared to Tuesday’s mass memorial, Sunday’s state funeral at Qunu will be a smaller affair focusing on the family, but dignitaries, including Britain’s Prince Charles and a small group of African and Caribbean leaders, will also attend.

The Qunu event will combine military pomp with traditional burial rituals of Mr Mandela’s Xhosa clan.

South Africa’s retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be conspicuously absent from the funeral for his friend and fellow Nobel peace laureate, his family spokesman said.

The spokesman, Roger Friedman, said the Anglican prelate was not accredited as a member of the clergy for the event, but government officials insisted he was on the guest list.

Mandela had a close friendship with Archbishop Tutu, forged in the struggle against apartheid, so his absence from the global icon’s final farewell raised questions about the outspoken clergyman’s strained relationship with the current South African government and ruling ANC Party.

“The archbishop is not an accredited clergy person for the event and will thus not be attending,” Mr Friedman said, citing a statement made by Archbishop Tutu’s daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu.

But foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said: “Desmond Tutu is definitely on the guest list”.

“I suspect the issue here is whether he would have provided any official duties as a clergy person … he may have taken a decision not to attend the funeral.”

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, Archbishop Tutu, 82, has become a fierce critic of the ruling ANC, accusing it of losing its way and straying from the ideal of a “Rainbow Nation” of shared prosperity that he and Mandela had envisaged.

He has criticised president Jacob Zuma’s leadership and in 2004, under then-president Thabo Mbeki, he accused the ANC of promoting “kowtowing” and said its black economic empowerment policies were helping only a small elite.

Iranian vice-president Mohammad Shariatmadari will be at Qunu, but former US president Bill Clinton will not attend, a South African foreign ministry spokesman said.


Earlier, more than 1,000 members of the African National Congress paid an emotional tribute to their former leader.

Mandla Mandela reflected on what he observed over the past three days as his grandfather lay in state.

“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,” he said.

Mourners hoping to see Mandela’s body were turned away

Tens of thousands of mourners flocked to South Africa’s central government buildings in Pretoria to say goodbye to the anti-apartheid hero on the final day of his lying in state.

Such was the crush of people wanting to see his body that the government were forced to asked others to stay away if they were not already in the queue.

At least 50,000 people were waiting and there were moments of tension as police tried to turn mourners away.

At the Pretoria Showgrounds, one of the park-and-ride gathering points, the crowd broke through the metal entrance gate when officers tried to stop people coming through.

Some fell to the ground and hundreds streamed past before order was restored.

On another access road, police had to force back people trying to break through crowd barriers.

Winding queues snaked for kilometres from the government site perched on a hill overlooking the city, well into the heart of the capital.

Filing past the coffin, some pausing to bow, mourners viewed the body laid out in a green and gold batik shirt.

On Friday, Mr Mandela’s grandchild Mandla sat beside the coffin, acknowledging mourners with smiles.

Mr Mandela died last week aged 95.

Mandela’s death prompts emotional outpouring and controversy

The week of mourning since his death has seen an unrivalled outpouring of emotion for the statesman and Nobel peace laureate, who was honoured by a host of world leaders at a memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

But the homage to a man who was a global symbol of reconciliation has not been without controversy.

South African president Jacob Zuma, who is leading the national mourning ceremonies, was booed by a hostile crowd at Tuesday’s memorial, a worrying sign for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) six months before elections.

There has also been a storm of outrage and questions over a sign language interpreter accused of miming nonsense at the same memorial.

Nelson Mandela | Life and times

  • Obituary: Read about the life of one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century.
  • Photo gallery: Look back on Nelson Mandela’s life in pictures.
  • Video: Sally Sara looks back on Mandela’s life and achievements.
  • From Mandela’s desk: Explore a gallery of Mandela’s own writings.
  • Timeline: View key dates in Mr Mandela’s life.
  • As it happened: Look back at our coverage as the world paid tribute to Mr Mandela.


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