Qunu - Traditional Xhosa rites, including the
slaughtering of an ox, will accompany Nelson Mandela's burial in his boyhood
home of Qunu on Sunday, clan leaders say.
Following a formal state send-off in the capital
Pretoria, tradition will take centre stage in a ceremony to be attended by
global leaders and specially invited guests.
Overseen by male elders of his clan, the burial will take
place inside the family's expansive estate, perched on a hilltop overlooking
the rolling plains of the Eastern Cape region.
The slaughtering of an animal - a ritual performed
through various milestones of a person's life - will form a crucial part of the
"A funeral is an intricate ceremony that involves
communicating with the ancestors and allowing the spirit of the departed person
to rest," said Chief Jonginyaniso Mtirara of the Thembu clan that Mandela
"The spilling of animal blood is a very important
part of the burial process," he said.
An ox will be slaughtered in the morning of the burial,
to accompany the spirit of the deceased.
During the ceremony, Mandela will be referred to as
Dalibhunga - the name given to him at the age of 16 after undergoing the
initiation to adulthood.
Cries of "Aaah! Dalibhunga," shouted three
times, will greet his body as it arrives home, and will be repeated during the
ceremony as people pay their last respects.
Xhosa mourners will wear traditional Xhosa regalia, with
blue and white beaded head gear and necklaces.
Xhosa speakers are divided into several groups, including
the Thembu people, of which Mandela is a member.
Although Mandela never publicly declared his religious
denomination, his family comes from a Methodist background.
His marriage in 1998 to his third wife Graça Machel was
conducted by a Methodist Church priest, Mvume Dandala, with blessings by
various faith leaders including a rabbi.
The commission of traditional affairs in the Eastern Cape
region has told the government to "take a back seat" in the
preparation and conduct of the burial ritual.
"If the government intervenes, the ancestors will
not accept and welcome him, and this will have a detrimental effect on the
family members left behind as his spirit will come back to haunt them,"
said the head of the commission, Nokuzola Mdenge.
Local people and private contractors have been carefully
preparing the family graveyard, shielded from public view by a stone wall and
The site is where three of Mandela's children were
reburied in July after their remains were exhumed from Mvezo village, Mandela's
birthplace, after a family dispute.
In many rural parts of South Africa, it's common to keep
graveyards within the family compound.
Retired anthropologist and historian Mda Mda said the
service would not be elevated to the status of a royal funeral, despite his
family connections to Thembu royalty.
"He was not a king, his father was not a king as
some people would like to believe, he comes from a lower house of the
Thembu," he said.
In July this year's Mandela's eldest daughter, Makaziwe,
told the national broadcaster SABC that the family did not want to see their
father's grave turned into shrine for pilgrims.
As a result it will not be made accessible to the public.
Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson
Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle
for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.
- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.