Mandela’s widow wept river of tears as the peace icon laid to rest in Qunu
Mandela’s widow wept river of tears as the peace icon laid to rest in Qunu.
(By Getahune Bekele- Qunu village, South Africa.)
“Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.”
Mary Frye (1904-2004)
No more physical suffering for Madiba, rivers of joy and tears flowing side by side under African sky in honor of one of the most beloved sons of Africa, Nelson Mandela. Although the people of Africa did not want to accept his mortality, Madiba has departed and his long walk to freedom has ended.
He was buried in his boyhood village of Qunu among his mother and children, in small family farm where he loved to walk and looked at the rolling hills of always-misty Mzveso, his birthplace across the meadows and beyond the picturesque Mbashe riverbank in this pristine and tranquil land of the colorful Ama Tembu clan.
Transformed by the intermittent summer rains in to lash green Eden, as beautiful as the hanging garden of Babylon, Qunu welcomed back her most famous citizen, the weary laborer Madiba, on Saturday 14 December 2013 ahead of Sunday’s funeral after his remains touched down at Mthata airport aboard C-160 air force plane escorted by three gripen fighter jets.
Qunu, just like the biblical Golgotha, will be in everybody’s heart for generations as the final resting place of the modern day Moses who lived his life in service of the others.
On Sunday, December 15, 2013, inside the giant white marquee hurriedly erected for the occasion, more than 5,000 stunned and intrigued mourners witnessed an African send-off, a fitting full-fledge state funeral, probably, will never be seen anywhere in the world again.
“When Walter (sisulu) died, I lost a father, when Mandela died I lost a friend. The void is so huge that I don’t know who else to turn to…” Ahmed Katrada, Madiba’s inmate for 27 years and one of the 3 remaining Revonia trial survivors told mourners as the funeral proceeding continued.
The tearful Katrada then recounted how he saw Mandela, a boxer and physical fitness enthusiast, a tireless laborer on Robben Island’s lime stone quarry during their imprisonment there, lying in hospital bed debilitated and helpless. Some in the crowd wept openly while others broke into song, the popular hymn Jerusalem likhayama lami, Jerusalem is my home.
After Katrada, the radiant MC Baleka Mbete called up on the current AU chair, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to address the mourners. The belligerent and brutal puppet who is regarded by Ethiopians as a symbol of national shame and humiliation then delivered a poorly written topsy-turvy eulogy, at times embarrassingly struggling to pronounce the words.
Like his predecessor, the late ferocious tyrant Meles Zenawi who venomously reviled Ethiopia’s glorious past, Hailemariam walked off the stage without saying a word about Ethiopia’s contribution to the liberation struggle of African countries and the African National Congress. His speech was completely uninspiring and dull.
“For God’s sake, this is not a political gathering but a celebration of Mandela’s life. We wanted to hear about the Lion of Judah, Hailesilassie and Col Tadesse Birru, Madiba’s inspirations during those difficult times of the liberation struggle, am bitterly disappointed with the PM of Ethiopia. He is obviously a person of very low intellect…” A South African journalist whispered to the Horn Times.
However, the presence of former Tanzanian first lady Mama Nyerere Zambia’s founding father Kenneth Kaunda and the grace of eloquent and energetic young Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete provided the much-needed comfort and even a bit of entertainment to the stricken crowd after ten days of utter grief and mourning.
Waving his trademark white handkerchief, the highly regarded elder statesman Kenneth Kaunda, known for his infinite wisdom kept the mourners in stitches, first by throwing his walking stick and sprinting across the length of the podium and humorously arguing with MC Cyril Ramaposa for more time as to pay enough homage to his former Fort Hare university classmate Nelson Mandela. It was the best lighter moment of the proceeding.
His repeated use of the word “Boer” for white farmers, made even mourner-in-chief Jacob Zuma chuckle and Winnie Mandela crack smile. Kaunda went on to refer to Tanzanian President Kikwete as “that young man,” again drawing a roar of laughter from the 5,000 plus crowd.
“I sincerely thank you young man for bringing Mama Nyerere with you to South Africa to say goodbye to her friend Madiba. Thank you for mentioning the great Julius Nyerere’s massive contribution to Africa.” Dr Kaunda said to the president of Tanzania before sprinting back to his seat amid wide applause and chanting of his name.
Nevertheless, Chief Ngongomhlaba Matanzima delivered his speech in Xhosa language; it was Joyce Banda president of Malawi who gave Madiba’s funeral a real African taste.
Paying homage to her icon’s humility, an emotional Banda told mourners how she applied Madiba’s teachings and forgave her political adversaries who tried to remove her from office in her native Malawi.
“Do we practice what Nelson Mandela thought us? Yes we do. Come to Malawi and see.” Banda, the courageous orator who created an electric atmosphere inside the marquee added.
However, behind all the glitz and glamour of the century’s biggest funeral, there were controversies, one of which was how the cosmopolitan African crowd received leaders of former colonial states.
On Tuesday’s massive memorial service, President Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe got the warmest reception while the arrival of British PM David Cameron, former US President George Bush, and former British PM Tony Blair was greeted with indifference.
Again on Sunday, in a move expected to anger the Buckingham palace, Prince Charles who represented the former brutal colonial power, Britain, was snubbed and confined to the back row while the South African National Defense Force officers filled empty seats on the front row.
Former US President Bill Clinton was a high profile no-show at the funeral.
But all was forgotten when the beloved Madiba’s coffin made the final short journey to the tiny gravesite that accommodated only 500 mourners.
Every African child’s heart was filled with pride when the South African air force Planes and helicopters flew past, saying their final goodbye to the late commander-in-chief, Nelson Mandela.