Friday 22 September 2017

Tutu will attend Madiba's burial

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu waits to speak during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto.
Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu waits to speak during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto.

Daniel Howden in Qunu

NELSON Mandela's coffin lay in his childhood home of Qunu last night, draped in the flag of the new South Africa that he helped to create; the colours of the African National Congress (ANC), which he led to power; and the skin of a lion, an honour normally reserved for kings of his native Xhosa people.

The funeral cortege of the country's first democratically elected president was met by a popular honour guard of ordinary South Africans, who lined the 20-mile final homecoming from the provincial city of Mthatha to Qunu.

The plain black hearse, declining to slow down even for a moment, was greeted with cheers and whoops as if for a film star walking down the red carpet.

For many, even the fleeting glimpse had been worth the long wait behind a blue line of police.

Bonga Dlali, 32, brought his two-year-old twins so that they would later be able to say they had been there.

"It's final closure for most of us," he said.

"This is the last time we'll come close to the gentleman who inspired so many things."

In the different coloured faces among the army, navy and air force personnel who lined the Mthatha airstrip to receive his coffin, there were signs of the transformation that Mandela wrought after emerging from 27 years in prison under white rule.

Outside the Mandela home in Qunu, villagers, who were heavily outnumbered by security forces, gamely waved and called out "Aah Dalibhunga", meaning "welcome home" in Xhosa.

But the government managed another own goal to match the scandal of the fake sign-language interpreter as a row erupted as to whether Archbishop Desmond Tutu would attend today's funeral.

"Much as I would have loved to attend the service to say a final farewell to someone I love and treasured," the former cleric said in a statement, "it would have been disrespectful to Tata (Nelson Mandela's Xhosa name, meaning 'father') to gatecrash what was billed as a private family funeral."

This left the government scrambling to dispel the impression that Tutu, whom many see as South Africa's moral compass following the death of Mandela, had been excluded because of his record of criticising a notoriously thin-skinned administration. The prelate spoke at the funerals of anti-apartheid heroes Steve Biko, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.

Later Archbishop Tutu said he would attend the funeral reversing an earlier decision not to go, his spokesman said today.

"Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will be travelling to Qunu early tomorrow to attend Tata's funeral," a spokesman said.

© Observer

Irish Independent

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