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Giving Madiba a cultural send-off

Kwanele Sosibo

South Africans from far and wide have journeyed to Qunu to bid the former statesman farewell in his hometown.

A man prays on the lawns in Qunu at Nelson Mandela state funeral. (Delwyn Verasamy)

South Africans from far and wide journeyed to Qunu to bid the former statesman farewell in his hometown on Sunday.

The funeral, attended by more than 4 000 guests, ended with a private burial ceremony at the family graveyard attended by over 450 guests.

Nobuntu Saka, a garment maker from Port St Johns was doing a roaring trade outside the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, selling seshoeshoe-style outfits, some bearing the image of Nelson Mandela. "The funeral was momentous but it was also sad – in fact it was everything in one. Today is a day of reflection because most South Africans are asking themselves what the future holds now that he is dead. I guess it is up to God, but the country is no longer the same as when he was president. Now there are many parties coming up, which means the nation is no longer united." 

YFM radio chief executive, Kanthan Pillay, who watched the funeral from a picturesque viewing area just outside the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, said he couldn’t help but feel honoured to have lived in Mandela's lifetime. "It was a good feeling sitting there," Pillay said as crowds emptied the area. "As you can see, this countryside is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It's peaceful. You can understand why the old man loved it so much. But I think it will be transformed after his death. It will be a place of pilgrimage, which will bring some economic development."

Zulu dancing

Musa Ngubane who came from KwaXimba, near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal with about three hundred people, held a Zulu dancing and war chanting session on the lawns overlooking the public viewing area in Qunu. "We decided to give Mandela a cultural send-off. We came together and organised money to come here because we had a good relationship with Mandela. This was just to say thanks." 

Ngubane said they had left KwaXimba on four buses at 8pm on Saturday, but had suffered some serious delays in Mthatha. "We had to negotiate our way to Qunu because the authorities would not let us through because of the road closures." Ngubane said he was happy about how the funeral went, it was a professional and dignified send off. The men were received by Mandlonke Qengqe, one of Qunu’s headmen, who said the gesture was Madiba-esque as there had been historically fractious relations between some Xhosa and Zulu people.

Ngubane said one of the first places Madiba had visited since his release from prison was KwaXimba where he had thanked them for supporting the ANC, something which hadn't changed since, he said. Another man in the entourage said they had honoured Madiba in this way because he was of royal stock.

Burial rites

A man who said he had been coming to pay his respects in Qunu, almost daily, said he was impressed with how the funeral itself went, but was downhearted because he felt two wounds had been inflicted on South Africans. Michael Notyhanga, from the nearby community of Ematsheni Angqina said, "Our [Nazarite Baptist] church, the biggest in South Africa, was not allowed to perform burial rites and the public didn't get to see the body like they did in Pretoria.

"There are many open areas here. It's not our fault that they failed to build a stadium." The man insisted, just as he had insisted a week ago when he camped outside Madiba’s house, that both Madiba and president Jacob Zuma were members of the church who had been baptised in private as they could not be seen to be associated with any one church for the sake of nation building.


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