Photo: Site of Nelson Mandela's final resting place
The cortege transporting the body of South African former President Nelson Mandela arrived Saturday afternoon in his ancestral village of Qunu, where he will be buried on Sunday.
Mandela’s coffin had been flown earlier in the day from Pretoria, where he had lain in state for three days, to Mthatha, a city in his native Eastern Cape Province.
The plane was greeted with shouts of joy by a crowd at the airport and the coffin was subsequently transported under military honor guard to Qunu, where the anti-apartheid icon will be buried in a state funeral in keeping with the traditions of his Thembu clan, part of the Xhosa people.
Scores of world leaders will be among the roughly 4,000 people in attendance at Sunday’s funeral.
The 95-year-old Mandela died on Dec. 5 from chronic pulmonary problems that were a legacy of the tuberculosis he contracted during the 27 years he spent behind bars in his struggle against South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Mandela, who was trained as an attorney, joined the African National Congress in 1944 and went on to establish the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).
He was convicted in June 1964 on charges of sabotage of power plants and other vital infrastructure and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government.
Mandela became South Africa’s first freely elected president in 1994, four years after he was released from prison by order of then-President F.W. de Klerk.
The pair shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts that led to an agreement to transfer power to a government representing South Africa’s black majority.
Mandela served just one term as president but he is credited with promoting reconciliation among white and black South Africans and helping to avert widespread racial violence in the post-apartheid era.