Nelson Mandela’s body flown home

Nelson Mandela’s coffin has been flown to the Eastern Cape region of South Africa for the final leg of the journey to his ancestral home in Qunu.

The casket, accompanied by senior clan and family members, was greeted at Mthatha airport by a military guard of honour.

Local people have been invited to form a human chain to pay their respects along the route to Qunu.

A state funeral will be held on Sunday for Mr Mandela, who died on 5 December.

At least 100,000 people saw the former South African president’s body lying in state in Pretoria over the last three days, but some had to be turned away.

Last respects

The C130 military aircraft carrying the coffin, escorted by two fighter jets, arrived in Mthatha at 13:37 local (11:37 GMT).

To solemn music, the coffin draped in a South African flag was moved by a military guard of honour and placed in a hearse to begin the road journey.

People waving flags and singing lined the route taken by the cortege through Mthatha town to pay their last respects.

Ahead of Sunday’s state funeral and burial, the coffin is to rest overnight in the grounds of the royal house of Thembu in Qunu.

The Thembu community will conduct a traditional ceremony in a giant white marquee that has been specially erected.

Some 4,000 people, including presidents from Africa, several prime ministers, the Iranian vice-president, and the Prince of Wales, are expected to attend.

However, Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela – has cancelled arrangements to fly to the Eastern Cape for the funeral after saying he had not been invited.

Archbishop Tutu, said he had no wish to “gatecrash what was billed as a private family funeral”. But the South African government – which Archbishop Tutu has criticised – later said the churchman had been invited.

Exuberant

Ahead of the flight to the Eastern Cape, Earlier, members of the African National Congress paid final tributes to Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Pretoria.

President Jacob Zuma, other ANC leaders and more than 1,000 members of the organisation which Mr Mandela once led, attended the event at the Waterkloof air base.

It included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute.

Mourners heard President Zuma pay his own tribute to Nelson Mandela, calling him a “towering figure”, “a man of action” and a “democrat who understood the world.”

“Yes, we will miss him… He was our father, he was our guardian. He was something special.”

“We’ll always keep you in our hearts,” Mr Zuma said.