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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, wife of Rivonia trialist Walter Sisulu; Cyril Ramaphosa, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers; Cas Saloojee, president of the Transvaal Indian Congress, and Murphy Morobe, acting publicity secretary of the restricted United Democratic Front, listened attentively as the government announced it would soon release all but one of South Africa's most famous prisoners.
As the names or those to be released were called out one by one, it was for all in the room a moment of victory, marred by an historic omission - the name of the host. According to Ramaphosa, the five were overwhelmed with emotion. But the emotions were mixed. Albertina Sisulu was sitting next to Mandela: She told him: "I am taking you home with me now." And the slightly greying yet according to Ramaphosa, still dashingly handsome host, hugging the wife of his comrade friend and prison mate said: "Yes, I want to go home."
The realisation that the world' most famous prisoner would remain prisoner is a measure of the desperate inability of the South African government to release Mandela. Mandela knew already that the list would exclude him and told the party his release was not an issue. He said he had seen his fellow Rivonia trialists the day before and they had discussed the releases. He told the party he had held discussions with representatives of the government about the release of the other lifers.
He said these discussions had been conducted mainly with Minister of Justice Kobie Coetsee and other members of his department, according to Ramaphosa, and told the party these were just discussions and not negotiations. He had never pleaded his own case, believing it should be left to others, Mandela told the group. He said he did not expect to see State President FW de Klerk in the near future and, by emphasising his concern that the other lifers be permitted to report to the African National Congress in Lusaka, indicated his concern for consultation and collective leadership in the ANC.
Mandela told his visitors that he was very concerned about the continuing violent conflict in the country. His view was that he could not enter into negotiations with the government because he believed that he could not do this as a prisoner. He said that in his contact with the government he had urged the powers that govern to talk to his organisation, the ANC. His guests were amazed at his powerful intellect. One remarked that he had a forceful voice and a powerful personal presence.
According to his guests, despite his age he was physically fit and had an upright gait. The delegation briefed Mandela about the Defiance Campaign, the Conference for a Democratic Future and other political matters affecting both the ANC and the Mass Democratic Movement. Mandela expressed support for the strategies and tactics of the MDM.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.