Traditional last rites for famous elder
THE patience of a handful of journalists and radio and television hacks was rewarded just after 3pm when the gates to Nelson Mandela’s homestead opened then closed again behind four solemn- faced advisers to Dalinyebo, the king of the Thembu.
The king sent his apologies, said Nkosi Bovulengwe Ntirara, “but he is not feeling well and has asked us to convey a message on his behalf ”.
Nkosi Ntirara’s address came in partial confirmation of a rumour earlier rippling though a smattering of journalists positioned outside the gates of Mandela’s Qunu homestead to catch the news as it fell, some since before dawn on a thin and chilly morning.
Though nobody had seen them enter, the word was that a group of Thembu traditional leaders were inside saying prayers and performing rituals for the soul of the revered elder statesman.
But the way Nkosi Ntirara told it, it was more personal than that. The king, he said, was “feeling very bad, he is not OK”, he has lost a “father and grandfather”, and “a father to the nation and to everybody”.
Even so, he wanted the world to know that having paid his personal and traditional respects, the king would be attending a local funeral today, but from there would be travelling to Joburg to meet with “Mama Graca and Mama Winnie”.
From there it would be back to the Mandela homestead at Qunu to hold court and remember Mandela in the traditional ways.
The king had sent out invitations to all the Thembu chiefs, Ntirara said, asking them to be at the homestead at 10am on Monday to mourn and to celebrate the man the king sees as a father and a grandfather. Then, politely, that was that and the information gates yawned again and snapped shut. being… a different person than others,” he continued. Setsetse, a businessman now, said when he heard of Madiba’s passing, he was “shocked” inasmuch as he knew he had been unwell.
“His passing came as a shock not just to South Africa, but to Africa and the world. I just thought it befitting to come to pay respects to Tata in his home and express my sincere condolences to his family.”
LAST SUNRISE: The sun rises over Nelson Mandela’s home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape yesterday.
IN MOURNING: A SAPS flag at Nelson Mandela’s home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape flies at halfmast yesterday as the village mourns the icon’s passing.
‘LOST A FATHER’: Nkosi Bhovulengwe Mtirara briefly speaks to reporters gathered outside Mandela’s home in Qunu.