Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


African traditions, military pomp for Mandela burial

13 December 2013, 13:19

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday in an elaborate ceremony combining a state funeral and all its military pomp with the traditional burial rituals of his Xhosa clan to ensure he has an easy transition into the afterworld.

Many South Africans will revere Mandela, who during his life became a global symbol of peace and reconciliation, even more now that he has died, since ancestors are widely believed to have a guiding, protective role over the living.

Around 46 percent of the population practises traditional African religions, according to a 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a Washington-based research centre.

Mandela, of the abaThembu people and South Africa's first black president, died a week ago at the age of 95. Thousands of people have filed passed his body as it lies in state in Pretoria this week.

He will be buried by his family following their traditional burial rites on Sunday in Qunu, their ancestral home in the rural Eastern Cape province, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg.

If the rites are not carried out, the abaThembu believe the dead will come back in spirit to demand they are performed.

"We as Africans have rites of passage, whether it is a birth, marriage or funeral. Mandela will be sent off into the spiritual world so that he is welcomed in the world of ancestors. And also so that he doesn't get angry," said Nokuzola Mndende, a scholar of African religion.

"His wrath won't be on the state if these ceremonies don't take place, it will be on his children," Mndende said.

A man who for many embodied the Christian values of forgiveness, Mandela was the product of Xhosa traditional upbringing and Methodist schooling.

In his autobiography 'Long Walk to Freedom,' Mandela spoke approvingly of the Xhosa rituals which his mother, a convert to the Methodist faith, resisted but his father followed, presiding over slaughter rituals and other traditional rites.


For the abaThembu, the ritual of accompanying Mandela's spirit will include the slaughtering of an ox in the early hours of Saturday morning before receiving his body, flown in from Pretoria.

The ox meat is then boiled without spices in big, iron black pots in open fires outside.

"On Saturday, once the body has been received, the elders will speak and perform some rituals and then the body will spend the night at the home," said Chief Mfundo Mtirara, spokesman for the abaThembu royal house.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, before the funeral officially begins, another ox will be slaughtered as part of the family ritual of saying goodbye.

After that Mandela's body will be handed over to the church and then to President Jacob Zuma for the state funeral.

Finally King Dalindyebo, king of Mandela's clan, is expected to perform salutations to the dead that will send Mandela to the world of the ancestors.

The king's men will then join him in a last salutation before everyone returns home to wash their hands outside the family yard and have lunch.

A week later, the family take part in a ritual to "wash the spades" that dug his grave and, after a year has passed, another ox is slaughtered and the mourners remove their black mourning garb. (Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

- Reuters


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
DP Ruto accuses Raila of selling ...

DP Wiliam Ruto has castigated Raila Odinga for seeking western support to fund his 2017 election bid. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Peter Kenneth announces Uhuru 201...

Peter Kenneth has announced that he will support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...