On Sunday, anti-apartheid champion Nelson Mandela was buried in his home village after a funeral that mixed ancient tribal rituals with a display of the might of the new, integrated South Africa. Military officers, both black and white, rolled Mandela’s flag-draped coffin to the family burial plot in the village of Qunu. According to reports, unlike a public memorial service on Tuesday at a stadium that was rife with problems, the funeral and burial — broadcast on many TV channels — went smoothly, although behind schedule. Several thousand gathered in a huge white tent at the Mandela family compound for the state funeral that preceded a private service at the gravesite.
Mandela’s widow, Grace Machel, and his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black and with South African President Jacob Zuma. Guests included U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Monaco’s Prince Albert II, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Jesse Jackson, Sr.
His portrait looked over the assembly in the tent from behind a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his life. Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail as a prisoner of the racist white government and emerged to lead a transition to a multiracial democracy, died on Dec. 5 at the age of 95 after a long illness. Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, spoke at the ceremony sharing that he had saw Mandela in his hospital bed months before his death:
He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking. How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn’t do so.
After the ceremony in the tent, a smaller group of guests walked to a family grave site. The burial ended 10 days of mourning ceremonies that included a massive stadium memorial in Johannesburg and three days during which Mandela’s body lay in state in the capital, Pretoria.