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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 24 November, 2014

‘Go well, Madiba’:Nelson Mandela laid to rest in South Africa

Songs and speeches rang across the rural village of Qunu this morning as a nation said its final farewell.

Updated: 19:50

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(Image: Screengrab from Sky News)

SOUTH AFRICA SAID a final goodbye to the country’s founding father at his funeral in Qunu this morning.

Mandela was buried at his childhood village of Qunu today after a state funeral attended by state leaders, dignitaries and celebrities from every corner of the world.

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Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams at the funeral service this morning (Image: Odd Anderson/AP).

Songs, speeches and the boom of artillery rang across the village as a tribal chief draped in animal skin declared: “A great tree has fallen”.

The songs and speeches in the tent ceremony were broadcast on big screens in the area, including at one spot on a hill overlooking Mandela’s property. Several hundred people gathered there, some wearing colors of the African National Congress — the liberation movement-turned political part that Mandela used to lead — and occasionally breaking into song.

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Family members and guests attend the funeral service for the former South African President (Image: Odd Anderson/AP).

Nandi Mandela said her grandfather went barefoot to school in Qunu when he was boy and eventually became president and a figure of global import.

“It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life,” she said, recalling kind gestures by Mandela “that made all those around him also want to do good.”

In the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name: “Go well, Madiba. go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race.”

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Ahmed Kathrada, right, speaks with Former South African President Thabo Mbeki (Image: Odd Anderson/AP).

Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend’s “abundant reserves” of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.

“He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking,” Kathrada said, his voice breaking at times. “How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn’t do so.”

Some mourners wiped away tears as Kathrada spoke, his voice trembling with emotion.

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Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel sits in-between South African President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema (Image: Odd Anderson/AP).

Mandela’s widow, Grace Machel, and his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black and sat on either side of South African President Jacob Zuma.

After the funeral ceremony, a smaller group of guests was to attend Mandela’s burial at a family grave site on the estate in Qunu, a rural village in Eastern Cape province.

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Planes fly overhead during the burial of Nelson Mandela (Image: Schalk van Zuydam/AP/PA).

A 21-gun salute and a flyover by planes were among the final acts planned before the casket was put into the earth.

The South African flag was removed from his casket, which was lowered into the ground ahead of a private traditional ceremony.

- With additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy and AFP.

First published 07:10

Related: Mandela’s body lying in state after solemn journey through Pretoria>

Read: “Slán abhaile, Madiba” – TDs pay tribute to Nelson Mandela>

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