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17 May 2003 15:39
The late African National Congress (ANC) struggle hero Walter Sisulu was buried in Croesus Cemetery in Newclare, Johannesburg on Saturday, following a moving ceremony at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
Reverend Mvume Dandala oversaw proceedings of the graveside service at Croesus Cemetery.
Only the family and VIPs were allowed into cemetery, which was cordoned off by security forces. The crowd at the Orlando Stadium could watch proceedings on big-screen television.
After the final blessing, Sisulu’s coffin, which had travelled to the cemetery on a gun carriage, was lowered into the grave while the congregation stood and a trumpeter played the last post.
The flag which had draped the coffin was presented to Sisulu’s wife, Albertina, by a senior army officer.
The ANC flag, which had previously draped the coffin at the
Sisulu home, was also presented to Mrs Sisulu.
The first sand and flower petals was poured into the grave by immediate family and close friends while a SA Police Service choir sang in the background.
Earlier, the service at the packed 30 000 seat stadium was attended by a host of VIPs and dignitaries, including President Thabo Mbeki, Deputy President Jacob Zuma, and former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.
Albertina Sisulu maintained her dignified composure as the military pallbearers carried her husband’s coffin to his grave.
Also present were, among others, the heads of state of Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Malawi, as well as several former heads of state, including Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana.
Gauteng Premier Mbazima Shilowa and Eastern Cape Premier Makhenkesi Stofile shared the duties of master of ceremonies, while Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo welcomed the various dignitaries.
The speakers included Mbeki, Mandela, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led the sermon. The service was preceded by a private prayer service at the nearby Sisulu family home.
Zimbabweans from across the political spectrum including the Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad (CZA) set aside their political differences as they attended the funeral.
CZA representative, Jay Jay Sibande said: “Although we are against the presence of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe at the funeral we do not intend to protest at the moment. However, Mugabe should know that he is not welcome in South Africa.”
Dozens of local and foreign media were also on hand to record the funeral. Sisulu died at his home in Linden, Johannesburg on May 5. He was one of many ANC leaders who fought for the end of apartheid, and had spent years in prison with Mandela during the struggle.
He would have turned 91 on Sunday—the day after his burial. - Sapa
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