AbaThembu Chief Mfundo Mtirara told DESTINY that Mandela’s funeral will be a normal one, but that he will be accorded certain Xhosa cultural rites.
“The AbaThembu do not have traditional (isiko) ceremonies which are conducted during funerals, so uTata Mandela will be buried like any other normal person,” Mtirara said.
In Xhosa culture, when a person dies away from his birthplace, his family, which includes the elders of the family, has to come and fetch his spirit where he died.
This means Mandela’s remains will be taken back to his Houghton home before being transported to Qunu.
When the family arrives at the scene they have to speak to the person’s spirit and tell them that they have come to fetch him to take him home to the land of his ancestors.
This is done so that the person’s spirit doesn’t wander around. After this is done the family prepares for the funeral, explains Mtirara.
After the funeral, the King of AbaThembu will do ukukhahlela kathathu (which is giving praise to Madiba) because of Mandela’s royal lineage.
A week after the funeral, the family will do ukuhlanjwa kwemihlakulo (washing of spades). His family will have to prepare umqombothi (traditional beer) as part of the ritual. At this ceremony, Mandela’s clothes may be distributed among his family.
According to tradition, Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, is expected to wear black for a whole year to show she is in mourning. “After a year the family will do (izila), which is the grieving period,” Mtirara said.
Thousands of people are expected to flock to Qunu on Sunday to pay their last respects to the icon that not only changed South Africa, but the whole world, with his ideals.
Heads of state including US president Barack Obama, former US president Bill Clinton, who was quite close with the late statesman, and Prince Charles are among the many leaders expected at the funeral.