15 December 2013
Nelson Mandela’s long-time friend and struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada moved many mourners to tears as he paid a poignant tribute to the late statesman during a state funeral at Mandela’s home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday morning.
“When Walter [Sisulu] died, I lost a father. When you died, I lost a brother. Now I don’t know who to turn to,” an emotional Kathrada told over 4 000 mourners gathered in a specially constructed dome on Mandela’s farm.
He said the last time he had seen Mandela alive was when he visited him in hospital. “He tightly held my hand … and brought all emotions … Farewell my dear brother, my mentor, my leader.”
Kathrada and Mandela were both imprisoned on Robben Island for their political views.
“I recall the tall, healthy, strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who rigorously exercised every morning. Now the inevitable has happened. He left us to join the ‘A team of the ANC’,” Kathrada said.
“Together, we shared ideas and walked side by side in the shadow of death.”
He said South Africa was a country that had been blessed by many talented leaders, including Mandela.
“We are deeply grateful to Madiba … We are deeply grateful that dignity has been restored to the people of South Africa. We are deeply grateful to Chapter 9 institutions that jealously guard our Constitution.”
Kathrada called for unity, for the non-racist and non-sexist South Africa that Mandela and his generation had fought for.
Dignitaries attending the funeral include Malawi President Joyce Banda, representing the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, representing former African liberation movements.
Britain’s Prince Charles, US media personality Oprah Winfrey, and businessman and philanthropist Patrice Motsepe are also in attendance, while a limited number of local people from Qunu have been accommodated.
Speaking before Kathrada, Mandela’s nephew, Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, said Mandela would rest in peace knowing that he had achieved his goal of a united and prosperous South Africa.
“He did what he had to do, and we are proud of his achievements,” said Matanzima, who was representing the Mandela family. “We thank the people of South Africa for giving him a chance to lead. We thank the government for the dignified service he is afforded here today.”
He further thanked the doctors who had cared for Madiba during his last days.
Following the funeral service, Mandela will be buried next to his relatives at the family gravesite in a private, more intimate ceremony.