This was a time of love, celebration and mourning, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said at the funeral of Nelson Mandela on Sunday.
South Africa held a state funeral for Nelson Mandela on Sunday, closing one chapter in its tortured history and opening another in which the multiracial democracy he founded will have to discover if it can thrive without its central pillar.
The funeral drew 4,500 guests.
“The person who is lying here is South Africa’s greatest son,” Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy ANC president who was acting as one of the masters of ceremonies, said as the service got under way.
Ramaphosa said Mandela must be buried before noon, in accordance with traditional customs.
“Behind me are 95 candles lit early this morning. They represent the years of his life … and more especially the contribution he made to our country.”
Ramaphosa said it was imperative that the service to be over in time.
“… In terms of the traditions of this part of the country, the person is meant to be laid to rest when the sun is at its highest,” he said.
The funeral service held in the marquee would therefore need to finish at 10.30am at the latest.
In the 10 days since Mandela died, “many of us have been engaged with memory of Madiba, what he has meant to us, what he meant to the world”, said Ramaphosa.
This was a time of love, celebration and mourning.
Ramaphosa acknowledged those present at the funeral, including Mandela’s widow Graça Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Mandela’s relatives.
Others he acknowledged included former president Thabo Mbeki, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, Cabinet ministers, members of the African National Congress national executive, and traditional and religious leaders.
Struggle veterans, judicial dignitaries, trade union leadership and leaders of opposition parties were also greeted, as were Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Charles Prince of Wales and Prince Albert of Monaco.
‘He was my older brother’
Struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada became emotional during his farewell.
“I don’t consider him my friend. He was my older brother,” Kathrada said.
His voice broke when he described the last time he saw Mandela who had been “reduced to a shadow of himself”. He said he and Mandela had called each another “Madala” [elder].
Flanked by two rows of candles, Kathrada stood at the podium in a dark suit and a striped, black and grey tie.
Earlier, the frail-looking anti-apartheid activist was helped on stage by an official, who held his hand.
Kathrada’s address kept the audience enthralled. They loudly applauded for him and listened carefully to his description of a life lived together.
“When Walter [Sisulu] died, I lost a father and now I have lost a brother. My life is in a void and I don’t know who to turn to,” Kathrada concluded.
Kathrada was imprisoned with Mandela for 26 years, 18 years of which was on Robben Island. Mandela served a 27 year sentence.
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu arrived just in time, after saying on Saturday that he would no longer attend because he was not invited. The government replied by saying he was welcome, and he then made a last-minute decision to attend.
Mandela family representative chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima on Sunday criticised the conduct of some people at this week’s memorial service for Mandela.
“What we saw on Tuesday at FNB Stadium [in Soweto] should never be seen again in this country,” he told mourners in isiXhosa at the funeral in Qunu.
“It makes a mockery of all the work Dhalibhunga [the praise name for Mandela] did and what he went to prison for.”
Sections of the crowd at the Stadium booed President Jacob Zuma at the memorial service when his face appeared on the screens.
Matanzima said he wished South Africa and the ANC would follow Mandela’s example of how he lived his life and united the country.
Matanzima said he hoped Mandela’s spirit would bring change for the people of South Africa, so that they could do away with corruption and concentrate on doing good. – Sapa, Reuters