AT 12.40pm yesterday, Nelson Mandela’s coffin was lowered into the ground, signalling the end of an era and bringing to a close 10 days of mourning with moving tributes dedicated to South Africa’s revered father of the nation.
Minutes before that, millions of people around the globe were glued to their screens as they watched his family, clergy and African and global leaders pay homage to the former statesman during his funeral in a packed marquee at his Qunu homestead in the Eastern Cape.
About 4500 guests gathered in the early morning, among them his lifelong friend Ahmed Kathrada, US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and the Prince of Wales, Charles.
Mandela’s coffin was carried into the marquee filled with lilies and candles at 8.10am.
Paying tribute to his friend of 67 years, an emotional Kathrada held back tears as he recalled his “brother and mentor”, affectionately referring to him as “Madala” (elderly one).
“We were truly blessed by the far- sighted wisdom of our collective leadership – with Madiba at the helm – that took us into a democratic future. For all of this and much more, we are deeply grateful,” Kathrada, 84, said.
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