‘Long, painful week’ comes to a close

President Jacob Zuma says the days since Madiba’s passing have been difficult for the entire nation.

Nelson Mandela's casket is carried by members of the military and police on a gun carriage during his funeral service in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on 15 December 2013. Picture: GCIS.

QUNU - "Today, especially, we celebrate the living incarnation that was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who gave his life for the sake of justice and freedom, who lived the world-healing practices of forgiveness, inclusivity, compassion and integrity," Bishop Don Dabula said at the state funeral of Madiba on Sunday.

Mandela passed away at his Johannesburg home on 5 December.

"That was a man after God's own heart. We know that the grim reaper, death, does not speak the last word. God speaks the last word and His word is always a good word," Dabula added.

People have now started leaving the area following a moving ceremony in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

The Mandela family is still in a meeting, but many of the guests have moved to the nearby Nelson Mandela Museum.

Others have already left the village.

The ceremony brought an end to 10 days of national mourning, which saw South Africans of all ages and races unite to reflect on the life and legacy of the father of the nation.

President Jacob Zuma described the last few days as a difficult period for the country.

"Tata, it has been a long, painful week for us - your people, your comrades, your relatives, your friends - since you took your last breath on the fifth of December 2013.

"When you became critically ill last year, we were gripped with fear and anxiety. We did not want to confront the reality of your mortality."

Filled with tearful eulogies and strident vows to pursue Madiba's ideals of equality and justice, the funeral saw numerous high-profile individuals speak at perhaps the most significant funeral South Africa has ever seen.

The former president's casket was lowered into the ground under the watchful gaze of his widow Gra├ža Machel, ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and about 450 selected guests.

A 21-gun salute and full military honour guard escorted Madiba's coffin to its final resting place.

His flag-draped casket was placed on cattle skins, surrounded by 95 candles, each signifying 95 years of Madiba's exceptional life.

Dabula officiated over the burial as members of Madiba's close family and inner circle watched on in silence.

Three military helicopters then flew over the burial site, each carrying a South African flag as The Last Post rang out over the hills of Qunu.