It was a great honour to be present at Nelson Mandela's funeral in his home village of Qunu. There is an African saying that you've not buried the person unless you go to the village, so it was a fitting send off to Madiba.

We drove through the night to get to the funeral, and were met by a magnificent rainbow, which seemed appropriate for this beautiful rainbow nation.  I spoke to a lovely five-year-old girl called Jamie, who summed up how we all felt when she said: "It really makes my heart sore. I think I might cry."

The government organised the memorial service earlier this week, which was a great occasion shared by people all over the world celebrating the life of Madiba. If he had been organising it himself I'm sure there would have been a little more dancing and singing!

Before the burial there were some lovely speeches, and Mandela's portrait was placed behind 95 candles, one for each year of his life.

The President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, made a beautiful speech, speaking very strongly about why people in public office should put public good before personal gain. She talked with courage and determination about how we can all overcome obstacles and ended by saying Madiba went to school in bare feet and ended up being the leader of the world. She said: "A leader is someone who falls in love with the people they serve, and allows the people to fall in love with them."

 

Mandela
Ashoka
The Elders

It was a great honour to be there representing The Elders, which Madiba founded with his wife Graca Machel. The speakers talked a lot onstage about how Mandela's legacy will live on through The Elders. That is a big responsibility for Kofi Annan, who now chairs The Elders, and the rest of the Elders. Right now they are continuing his good work, with Mary Robinson trying to resolve major conflicts in Central Africa, Lakhdar Brahimi working day and night to resolve the Syrian crisis, President Carter and Gro Harlan Bruntland and Maarti Arhtisari having just returned from Myanmar and many of the other Elders working to resolve conflicts across the world, and speaking out in Madiba’s name when they see injustices.

Richard
Image from gettyimages

After the funeral the family kindly invited me to join them at the burial itself, which was a more intimate affair.  It was a very moving, private traditional Xhosa ceremony.

At one point I thought Madiba's grandson had fallen into the grave, before three men pulled him out unhurt and in his suit. Then another grandson was pulled out of the grave. I hadn't realised that it was their tradition to go down onto the coffin and leave something that was a bond between them and Madiba.

Richard, Mandela and Arch

The most touching moment came when Archbishop Tutu said the final words as Madiba's stone was being laid: "He does not need a stone for us to remember him, we carry him in our hearts."

 

As far as Madiba is concerned this should not be the end. There is still a long walk to freedom for a lot of people around the world, and it is through every one of us that his legacy will prevail.

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