Nelson Mandela's body was flown on Saturday to South Africa's Eastern Cape region, headed for a state funeral on Sunday after a ceremony by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
With revolutionary songs and tributes to “Comrade Mandela”, the former liberation movement to which Mandela had dedicated his life said farewell at the Waterkloof airforce base in the capital of Pretoria.
“Go well 'Tata', you have played your part,” South African President and ANC leader Jacob Zuma said in a eulogy, using the Xhosa word for “father”.
He recalled Mandela's life as a freedom fighter in the armed struggle against apartheid, for which he was jailed for 27 years.
The ANC service led by Zuma was attended by Mandela's widow Graca Machel and his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Grandson Mandla Mandela thanked those who had come to pay their respects to the Nobel peace laureate.
"I have witnessed his army, I have witnessed his people, I have witnessed ordinary South Africans who walked this long walk to freedom with him and I can assure the African National Congress today that the future of this country looks bright," he said.
The ceremony followed nine days of intense and emotionally charged mourning and memorial activities held in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Mandela lay in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday to Friday. More than 100,000 people queued for hours to say a last personal goodbye to the nation's first black president.
Escorted by fighter jets, Mandela's body was flown by South Africa's airforce to his Eastern Cape home region, where it would be taken to the family home at Qunu.
As the eldest male descendant of Mandela, Mandla has been given the task of accompanying his grandfather’s body each time it is moved. The ritual is performed to ensure the body’s spirit does not wander.
There, a state funeral will take place on Sunday combining military pomp and traditional rites of Mandela's Xhosa abaThembu clan. It will be attended by family members, national leaders and foreign guests including Prince Charles and US civil rights activist Reverend Jessie Jackson.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a longtime friend of Nelson Mandela won't be attending Mandela's funeral because he did not receive the credentials to do so, said his spokeswoman.
“The Archbishop is not an accredited clergyperson for the event and thus will not be attending,” Rev. Mpho Tutu, the archbishop's daughter, said in a statement.
Sunday's funeral, planned to be more intimate than the mass memorial held on Tuesday attended by a host of world leaders, will bring together members of Mandela's family and Xhosa abaThembu clan, and a smaller group of dignitaries.
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