Locked out of Mandela’s funeral

Residents of Nelson Mandela’s hometown say they would have liked to have taken part in the burial ceremony.

Qunu, South Africa – The dignitaries came from all around the world to say a final farewell to a beloved leader. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and other guests came to bear witness to the “first fully-fledged state funeral” in South Africa’s post-apartheid history.

The burial in Qunu, deep in the Eastern Cape, was the last event in a series of activities dedicated to Nelson Mandela, or Madiba as he is affectionately known.

Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95, after battling a recurring lung infection for months.

As hundreds gathered outside the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, in one of the many viewing points set up for the public across the Eastern Cape, many residents expressed disappointment and dissatisfaction at being excluded from the official funeral ceremony.

Others added that it made little sense for Mandela’s body to lie in state in Pretoria for three days, given that it was so far from the people who mattered most: his extended family, neighbours and fellow villagers.

Al Jazeera spoke to Qunu residents in streets around the funeral on Sunday.

Foleso Masumpa, 70 years old

Foleso Masumpa [Al Jazeera]

“I am not at the main event because the people of Qunu have been told not to come near the main venue of the funeral.

“My heart is very sour: I really desired to be part of the mean event. However, what can we say – neighbours are being treated as strangers, whereas strangers are being treated as main guests.”

Andile (left), 27 years old
Andile [Al Jazeera]

“What is being done now, by the state and the Mandelas, is not within our culture and tradition.

“Traditionally when there is a funeral, a proper invitation is announced and the people residing as the surrounding communities are allowed in as the first priority.”

Michael Notyanga, 71 years old
Michael Notyanga [Al Jazeera]

“I am happy that Madiba has been laid to rest in the land of his ancestors. However, I am not happy with how the state has chosen to coordinate the funeral. We were not given the chance to see him as the Gauteng province did … now we were deprived of an opportunity to be part of our neighbour and leader’s last day and paying our last respects to him.

“This is the man who laid his life down for the people of this county, sacrificing his wife and children, but our government has been pushing their own agenda regarding this funeral.

“I will never forgive the government and this country for what they have done. I am simply being honest.”

Anda Gwele, 32 years old
Anda Gwele [Al Jazeera]

“All I can say is that leaders have different styles. Madiba led from the front. As for how the government of this country leads, that remains another issue.

“When Madiba was sick, all he wanted was to be kept at Qunu. Now that he has passed on, the people have been deprived [to see him] This is a historical injustice and unfairness to the people of Qunu.

“Mandela was a man of this village. Why is it now that he is dead, the village where he grew up, his body is being privatised by the authorities of this country, prioritising international guests [over the people]?”

Nozamile Dlayeadwa, 53 years old
Nozamile Dlayeadwa [Al Jazeera]

“I regard Madiba as a grandfather to myself and a great-grand father to my children. I am happy with the old man because he is the one who made sure we got social grants.

“I am, however, not happy because we are not being given the chance to bury him and also to be part of the proceedings that concern the funeral.

“The only thing I am not happy about now [about this country] is that my children are unemployed and there are not jobs.”

Howard Qenqe, 60 years old
Howard Qenqe [Al Jazeera]

“I am amazed how this funeral has been arranged. We have been arranged to sit very far from the main event. That is confusing because we are the rightful members of his surrounding community.

“Mandela’s popularity outside Qunu does not mean we should be deprived of the opportunity to take part in this funeral.

“However, with all that has been said and done, I am happy with all the good work of his hands. We are now getting old age grants, electricity and water – something we never had before.”

Rhathaza Ngqwambe, 60 years old
Rhathaza Ngqwambe [Al Jazeera]

“I am part of the Madiba clan, and I was born and raised in Mkalane, in Qunu. My father’s name was Geledwane Ngqwambe.

“I first saw Mandela when he came out of prison. I would also see him when he visited us here in Qunu. However, I last saw him when he started getting sick.

“I am not at the funeral because we have not been allowed to come near the event. We have only been allocated a tent. I would rather be in a shebeen [small bar] than sit in that tent.

“We still don’t know who is it that authorised for us not to be in the main event. Priority has been given to international guests.”

Vuyo Ngqola, 40 years old
Vuyo Ngqola [Al Jazeera]

“The funeral was well-organised for everyone to be part of the experience. Other people may complain about having not been able to go to the funeral, but the yard was simply not big enough for everyone.

“People should appreciate the effort made to put it on the big screens for them to watch the proceedings.

“Maybe it was unfair for the immediate neighbours, but how would the state distinguish one from the other?”

Source : Al Jazeera

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