QUNU, South Africa (AP):
Anti-apartheid HERO Nelson Mandela was buried in his home village yesterday after a funeral that mixed ancient tribal rituals with a display of the might of the new, integrated South Africa.
Military officers, both black and white, rolled Mandela's flag-draped coffin to the family burial plot in the village of Qunu. Formations of planes and military helicopters, South African flags flapping from the bellies, flew over the green hills where thousands of mourners had gathered.
Unlike a public memorial service last Tuesday at a stadium that was rife with problems, the funeral and burial - broadcast on many TV channels - went smoothly, although behind schedule.
Several thousand gathered in a huge white tent at the Mandela family compound for the state funeral that preceded a private service at the gravesite. Songs, speeches and the boom of artillery rang across the fields and a tribal chief draped in animal skin declared: "A great tree has fallen."
95 years, 95 candles
Mandela's portrait looked over the assembly in the tent from behind a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his remarkable life. His coffin, transported to the tent on a gun carriage, rested on a carpet of cow skins below a lectern where speakers delivered eulogies.
Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend's "abundant reserves" of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed. Some listeners wiped away tears as Kathrada spoke.
"He tightly held my hand. It was profoundly heartbreaking," Kathrada said, his voice quavering with emotion. "How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn't do so."
Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black and sat on either side of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Guests included veterans of the military wing of the African National Congress, the liberation movement that became the dominant political force after the end of apartheid, as well as US Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and other foreign envoys.
Britain's Prince Charles, Monaco's Prince Albert II, US television personality Oprah Winfrey, billionaire businessman Richard Branson, and former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were also there.
After the ceremony in the tent, a smaller group of guests walked to a family grave site.
The burial ended 10 days of mourning ceremonies that included a massive stadium memorial in Johannesburg and three days during which Mandela's body lay in state in the capital, Pretoria.