Zuma leads tributes to Mandela

Salisbury Journal: South African president Jacob Zuma sits between Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel during the funeral service (AP) South African president Jacob Zuma sits between Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel during the funeral service (AP)

The president of South Africa has led tributes to Nelson Mandela, describing him as a "beacon of hope", as the anti-apartheid hero was laid to rest on a family plot.

Dignitaries from around the world gathered for the state funeral of South Africa's first black president in Qunu, the remote village where Mr Mandela grew up.

More than 4,000 people, including Mr Mandela's family members, African leaders and several heads of state, attended the final farewell service in a specially erected marquee.

After the ceremony, his casket was carried by the military, accompanied by family and friends, up a hill to the graveside.

The burial marked the end of a week of memorial events for Mr Mandela which have attracted thousands of South Africans and world leaders.

The Prince of Wales, who arrived in South Africa this morning, attended the service along with p rominent US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, entrepreneur Richard Branson and broadcaster Oprah Winfrey.

Addressing the congregation, South African president Jacob Zuma said: "It is the end of an extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago.

"It is the end of 95 glorious years, of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa.

"Fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength, and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.

"Your long walk to freedom has ended in a physical sense.

"Our own journey continues. We have to continue working to build the kind of society you worked tirelessly to construct. South Africa will continue to rise."

Reading an obituary, Mr Mandela's grandson Ndaba Mandela said the former leader became "one of the world's greatest icons".

"It is through Mandela that the world cast its eyes on South Africa and took notice of the severe and organised repression of black South Africans," he said.

"Yet it was also through Mandela that the world would learn the spirit of endurance, the triumph of forgiveness and the beauty of reconciliation."

In the Xhosa language, Mr Mandela's granddaughter Nandi Mandela said: "Go well Madiba. Go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race."

She added: "We will carry lessons you taught us throughout our lives.

"As South Africans we must stop pointing fingers, but must rather lead by example, as you did."

The coffin, draped in the country's national flag, was taken on a gun carriage from Mr Mandela's house this morning to a giant white marquee that had been specially erected for the service.

Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mr Mandela's family, said: "A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers. We thank them for lending us such an icon."

Ahmed Kathrada, who was imprisoned on Robben Island with Mr Mandela, said: "Your abundant reserves of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience, tolerance, equality, justice, continually serve as a source of enormous strength to many millions of people in South Africa and the world.

"Today, mingled with our grief, is the enormous pride that one of our own has during his lifetime and now in your death united the people of South Africa and the entire world on a scale never before experienced in history."

Charles represented the Queen after Buckingham Palace confirmed that the 87-year-old monarch would not make the journey to South Africa for the ceremonies to mark Mr Mandela's death.

After the former statesman's death, Charles described Mr Mandela as the "embodiment of courage and reconciliation" and said his passing had left "an immense void" in the lives of everyone who had been affected by his fight for justice and freedom.

The South African and Union flags are being flown at half-mast above 10 Downing Street today to mark the ceremony.

Mr Mandela's body arrived in Qunu in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa yesterday as large numbers of people lined the roads to pay their respects as the cortege passed by.

This morning, South African military honour guards marched and stood at attention on a dirt road at the Mandela family compound ahead of the funeral.

Preparations for Mr Mandela's funeral were marred by a public spat between the South African government and retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the most prominent survivors in the long anti-apartheid struggle.

Mr Tutu, a Nobel laureate who has strongly criticised the current government, attended the service after earlier saying he would not, despite wanting to pay respects to his long-time friend.

He had said he was not invited - an apparent snub that the South African government vehemently denied.

At least 100,000 people saw Mr Mandela's body lying in state in Pretoria over three days this week, but some had to be turned away.

The 95-year-old former leader, who was imprisoned for 27 years for opposing apartheid before emerging in 1990 to forge a new democratic South Africa, died on December 5.

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