Nelson Mandela’s body has been buried in a family plot, after political and religious leaders paid tribute to South Africa’s first black president at a state funeral service.
Graca Machel and President Jacob Zuma were present for the private, traditional Xhosa burial at Nelson Mandela’s ancestral home in Qunu.
Jacob Zuma had earlier told the larger funeral service that South Africans had to take his legacy forward.
Nelson Mandela died on December 5 at the age 95.
The last of 10 days of commemorations for Nelson Mandela began with his coffin being taken on a gun carriage from his home to a giant marquee where his portrait hung behind 95 candles – each representing a year of his life.
The coffin, draped in the South African flag, was placed beneath a lectern where speakers paid their tributes.
Some guests sang and danced to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life as the service began.
After the national anthem, the service heard from a family spokesman, Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, who thanked the army medical team that had treated Nelson Mandela before he died.
African National Congress members, veterans of the fight against apartheid and foreign dignitaries – including several African presidents and the Prince of Wales – were among the guests.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela – was also there, as was queen talk-show +Oprah Winfrey.
While the service took place, a 21-gun salute sounded far away in Pretoria.
President Jacob Zuma, who was booed at last week’s stadium commemoration in Soweto, led the service in song before giving his funeral oration.
“Whilst the long walk to freedom has ended in the physical sense, our own journey continues,” he said.
An unexpected contribution came from Kenneth Kaunda, 89-year-old former president of Zambia, who lightened the tone of the proceedings by jogging to the stage.
He recounted failed appeals he had made to two South African leaders, John Vorster and PW Botha, for the release of Nelson Mandela and his ANC colleagues from prison.
As the political tributes overran, the organizers made an unsuccessful attempt to cut back the religious element of the service.
The master of ceremonies, ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, had earlier explained that burial had to take place at midday, in line with the traditions of Nelson Mandela’s Thembu tribe in Qunu.
“A person of Mandela’s stature is meant to be laid to rest when the sun is at its highest and when the shadow is at its shortest.”
As the state funeral drew to a close, military pallbearers carried the coffin to the grave site for the more private ceremony.
There, a chaplain spoke of Nelson Mandela achieving ultimate freedom at the end of a “truly long walk”.
Three helicopters trailing South African flags then flew over the scene followed by six jets. TV pictures of the grave site came to a close.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who attended the burial, said Desmond Tutu told mourners Nelson Mandela “doesn’t need a stone – he is in all of our hearts”.
The former archbishop was at the private ceremony despite conflicting statements on Friday about whether he had been invited.
According to tradition, the Thembu community was holding a private traditional Xhosa ceremony – including songs and poems about Nelson Mandela’s life and his achievements.
An ox was due to be slaughtered and a family elder was to stay near the coffin, to talk “to the body’s spirit”.
The burial brought to an end more than a week of mourning across South Africa.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to the FNB stadium for a public memorial on Tuesday, to hear President Barack Obama and other international leaders pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Over the next three days, at least 100,000 people saw the former president’s body lying in state in Pretoria. Thousands more had to be turned away.
On Saturday, Nelson Mandela’s coffin was flown from Waterkloof airbase in Pretoria to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
A military guard of honor then took the casket on a 20-mile route to Qunu, where Nelson Mandela had wanted to spend his final days.
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