Nelson Mandela Laid To Rest In South Africa

December 15, 2013

After days of mourning, Nelson Mandela was laid to rest today [Dec 15] in his native South Africa, with thousands attending to pay their final respects to a man who is considered the father of South Africa’s democracy.

CNN reported that tribal leaders clad in animal skins joined dignitaries in dark suits at the grave site overlooking the rolling green hills.

As pallbearers walked toward the site after a funeral ceremony, helicopters whizzed past dangling the national flag. Cannons fired a 21-gun salute, its echoes ringing over the quiet village.

“Yours was truly a long walk to freedom. Now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of God, your maker,” an officiator at the grave site said.

Mandela’s coffin, draped in his country’s flag, lay atop black and white cattle skins in front of a crescent of 95 candles, each marking a year of his life.

Military pallbearers gently removed the South African flag that draped the coffin and handed it to President Jacob Zuma, who gave it to Mandela’s family.

Revered around the world for leading the fight against white minority rule in South Africa, Mr. Mandela suffered through 27 years of imprisonment at the hands of the apartheid government.

In 1963 Mr. Mandela joined nine others on trial for in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. Facing the death penalty, he told the Court: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

In June 1964, Mr. Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. Confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing, he was forced to do hard labour in a quarry, and could only receive a letter once every six months.

On 11 February, 1990, Mr. Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years. Hundreds of thousands of supporters lined the streets to celebrate his release, and his release was broadcast around the world.

In a speech frequently drowned out by roars from the crowd, Mr. Mandela said: “Today, the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our decisive mass action. We have waited too long for our freedom.”

In 1994, Mr Mandela was sworn in as the country’s president after over three centuries of white minority rule, becoming the first black president of South Africa. He served one term, and after leaving office continued to be a voice on the world stage for developing nations, human rights and the fight against AIDS.

Mr Mandela retired from public life in 2004 and was rarely been seen at official events since. He last appeared in public during the World Cup in 2010, and despite being out of the public eye, he remained a pivotal figure, with his name intricately linked to South Africa’s fight for freedom.

Mr Mandela died on 5 December aged 95.

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