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Mandela’s coffin arrives in his native Eastern Cape province

Funeral to be held on Sunday in Qunu, Mandela’s birthplace

Published: Updated:

The body of Nelson Mandela arrived Saturday at his ancestral home of Qunu in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

Upon arrival, the coffin was greeted by singing and dancing local residents ahead of his state funeral set for Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

Excited residents sang the South African national anthem as the procession appeared on the road from Mthatha airport.

Earlier, Mandela was transfered to Waterkloof air base near Pretoria to allow the African National Congress (ANC) to pay tribute before it is flown to his home village Qunu for a traditional burial on Sunday.

The military handed over Mandela’s flag-draped coffin to the ANC at a solemn ceremony broadcast live on South African television. The proceedings included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute to Mandela at the air base, The Associated Press reported.

Ceremony

When his casket arrived at Waterkloof, the South African flag was replaced by the ANC colors for a part religious, part political ceremony of songs and speeches by ANC leaders, Agence France Presse reported.

Mandela’s widow Graca Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were at the base with other family members, top government officials including President Jacob Zuma and invited foreign guests like U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

Mandela’s favorite poem “Invictus” was printed on the back of the program and a verse was read out during the service.

On Sunday, Mandela’s casket will be taken to his home village in a procession led by the armed forces, and will receive a 21-gun salute and an aircraft flyover. The burial itself will be strictly private barred to both the public and the media.