Comrade Nelson Mandela is taken home to Qunu for the final time

Politics simmer as body of former president returns to birthplace

Qunu

Nelson Mandela was returned to his people today to be buried in the place where he had spent much of his youth; one of the final acts in days of commemoration in which the main theme was his great achievement in unifying a divided nation.

There was, however, a markedly partisan and political feel to what went on before, with the African National Congress bidding farewell to one of its warriors with revolutionary songs and clenched-fist salutes to “Comrade Mandela” as well as Madiba, his tribal name. There were roars of “Amandla”, the cry for power which used to be heard during the struggle against apartheid.

The international visitors this time were not world leaders, but from movements that had shown solidarity, such as Sinn Fein, represented by Gerry Adams.

It was, for many, a moving reminder of how hard freedom had to be fought for, with terrible sacrifices, against a racist, often vicious regime. Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, was in tears as she was handed the green and yellow colours of the ANC, which had replaced the national flag on the coffin for the ANC special tribute at the Waterkloof airforce base in Pretoria.

Mourners lining the roadside react as the cortège of former president Nelson Mandela passes through Mthatha on its way to his birthplace, Qunu, where he was to be buried today Mourners lining the roadside react as the cortège of former president Nelson Mandela passes through (Getty Images) But there were accusations and recriminations that political grudges had besmirched the farewell to the former president with confusion over whether Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a close friend of Mr Mandela and fellow campaigner against apartheid, would be attending the funeral today or not. Tonight, a presidential spokesman was adamant that he would be there, a claim which clashed with Archbishop Tutu’s earlier statement that he had not received an invitation and that he had no wish to “gatecrash” what was billed as a private family funeral.

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mr Mandela described Archbishop Tutu – the fellow Nobel Laureate with whom he stayed on the first night after his release from 27 years of imprisonment – as “a man who had inspired an entire nation with his words and his courage and revived hope during the darkest of times”. The cleric became a trenchant critic in recent times of Jacob Zuma and the ANC government, accusing them of inefficiency and corruption. Archbishop Tutu has also condemned members of the former president’s family for taking legal action against each other while he was gravely ill.

Mac Maharaj, President Zuma’s spokesman, said tonight: “The archbishop is not an ordinary church person, he is a special person in our country and definitely on the list. If there’s any problem we will try to iron that out, but I can assure you that he is on the programme. Certainly he was invited.”

The foreign ministry spokesman, Clayson Monyela, added: “I suspect the issue here is whether he would have provided any official duties as a clergy person. He may have chosen not to attend.”

There had been surprise that the archbishop was not one of the keynote speakers at the memorial service in Johannesburg last week. He had to be brought in to calm the crowd, which had relentlessly booed President Zuma in front of 91 visiting heads of state.

Speaking at the Pretoria airbase today, President Zuma appeared to address whether Mandela’s successors had failed to live up to the standards of leadership set by him. “The question is, can we produce other Madibas?” he asked. “We need more Madibas so that our country can prosper. Yes we are free, but the challenges of inequality remain.”

The motorcade transporting the body of Nelson Mandela, in black hearse, passes through crowds of mourners gathered in the town of Mthatha on its way to Qunu People wait by the side of the road at Nelson Mandela's body passes through (AP) Waiting on the roadside in Qunu for the cortege to pass, Neo Melisizwe, a 30-year-old teacher, had no doubts that things have progressively got worse. “People do not like Zuma, but he is not the only one, there are many who think of themselves and not of the country. When you consider how much Madiba suffered, these people are wasting the opportunity he and the others gave them.

“It is one of the reasons, especially, why we must remember Madiba, because we will not have leaders like him again.”

Mr Melisizwe had not heard that Archbishop Tutu was unlikely to attend the funeral. “That is not possible,” he said. “He was second only to Madiba in freeing us.

“I do not know what quarrel he has had with the government, but everyone should put aside their differences at a time like this.”

Around 4,000 dignitaries are expected for the service today. They will include Prince Charles, the Iranian vice-president Mohammad Shariatmadari, former French premiers Lionel Jospin and Alain Juppé, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the former American civil rights leader, and Richard Branson.

After being flown from Pretoria, Mandela’s coffin was escorted by outriders through the streets to Qunu to rest overnight at the royal house of Thembu, to which his family is connected.

The ceremony will be televised, before a private burial among family, friends and tribal elders.

But there was frustration and anger among those waiting that they had not been able to see the body of Nelson Mandela before his burial. The coffin had lain in state for three days in Pretoria and the authorities in Qunu had originally promised that people here would have the same opportunity, with the cortege making a number of stops.

This arrangement, however, was cancelled at the last minute. Harry Andile echoed many in saying: “We are the community Madiba came from, but here, of all places, we have been cheated of the right to see him. These politicians will never get our votes again.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot