Mandela's body arrives in Qunu

By Andrew Austin

The Herald's former chief reporter returned to his homeland this week to cover Nelson Mandela's funeral. Struck by the changes, he wrote this personal view on the country's future

Military officers salute as Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela watches over the casket as it arrives at the Mandela residence in Qunu, South Africa. Photo / AP
Military officers salute as Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela watches over the casket as it arrives at the Mandela residence in Qunu, South Africa. Photo / AP

Nelson Mandela made one final trip home to the little village of Qunu in Transkei, South Africa when his body was transported in a military procession.

He will be buried next to his ancestors in a private ceremony for family and invited guests.

Helicopters circled above while a fleet of Military Police, resplendent in full dress uniform, rode motorbikes ahead of the entourage that included the hearse carrying the coffin draped in the South African flag.

Armoured military vehicles rumbled behind as the South African National Defence Force put on a show for its former Commander-in-Chief.

A human chain of African National Congress supporters stretched a couple of hundred metres out from a roadblock on the outskirts of the village. Supporters had done the same in Mthatha, about 30 kilometres away on the road to Durban. The body was earlier flown from Waterkloof Military airbase in Pretoria after the ANC had held a tribute to Tata Madiba, as he being affectionately called.

About one hundred journalists from all around the world waited for hours in the sun for the funeral procession to arrive. Onlookers also came from far and wide, including three young teenagers from Mthatha.

Zingiale Dikane, 17, Apiwe Ndende, 18 and Apelele Sqikene, 18, said they loved Mandela and would always remember him.

Twenty one-year-old Unalo Khosona, who works as a tour guide at the Nelson Mandela Museum a few hundred metres up the road, said it was a special day for the region. She said she had mixed emotions because on the one hand she was sad that Mandela had died, but on the other hand his burial in the village would attract tourists.

"I am hoping that we will be allowed to take people to the grave when he is buried there. We have lots of interest from foreigners and locals and it would be a great opportunity," Ms Khosona said.

As the funeral procession approached the village, the weather changed and clouds started forming.

South African journalist Enoch Mthembu said this was a sign.

He said Africans believed that rain was a blessing.

"That is why storm clouds came over as his body came to the village."

"If a person does good things, the rain clouds follow him."

He said the weather in South Africa had been hot before Mandela died, but most parts of the country had experienced rain ever since his death.

Mr Mthembu said the Xhosa and Zulu tribes, who are both part of the Nguni group of people believed that when a good person died, rain would come and there would be prosperity.

"Cows have calves, the grass grows and wild animals have water to drink."

"Do you know what has made Mandela such a good man? Reconciliation and forgiveness."

- NZ Herald

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