South Africa buries 'greatest son' Mandela
By Ed Cropley
QUNU, South Africa (Reuters) - South Africa buried Nelson Mandela on Sunday, leaving the multi-racial democracy he founded without its living inspiration and still striving for the "Rainbow Nation" ideal of shared prosperity he had dreamed of.
The Nobel peace laureate, who was held in apartheid prisons for 27 years before emerging to preach forgiveness and reconciliation, was laid to rest at his ancestral home in Qunu after a send-off combining military pomp with the traditional rites of his Xhosa abaThembu clan.
As the coffin was lowered into the wreath-ringed grave, three army helicopters flew over bearing the South African flag on weighted cables, a poignant echo of the anti-apartheid leader's inauguration as the nation's first black president nearly two decades ago.
A battery fired a 21-gun salute, the booms reverberating around the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape, before five fighter jets flying low in formation roared over the valley.
"Yours was truly a long walk to freedom, and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of your maker," armed forces Chaplain General Monwabisi Jamangile said at the grave site, where three of Mandela's children already lie.
Among the 450 mourners at the private burial ceremony were relatives, political leaders and foreign guests including Britain's Prince Charles, American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Mandela died aged 95 in Johannesburg on December 5, plunging his 52 million countrymen and women and millions more around the world into grief, and triggering more than a week of official memorials to one of the towering figures of the 20th century.