Mayibongwe Maqhina
2 minute read
13 Dec 2013

Traditional burial rituals for Madiba

Mayibongwe Maqhina

SOME traditional rituals will be ignored for the relocation and burial of Nelson Mandela’s body...

SOME traditional rituals will be ignored for the relocation and burial of Nelson Mandela’s body.

Normally, a branch of the buffalo thorn tree (Ziziphus mucronata) — known as umphafa — is vested with the spirit of a Xhosa person who has died away from home, and carried to the burial site by a senior male relative.

The Witness understands that Mandela’s “spirit” will be transported from Houghton to Qunu this weekend in a ritualistic manner, but without the symbolic branch.

However, it understands that Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, as the eldest male descendant, has been entrusted with the responsibility to “inform” the spirit of Mandela of his location whenever his body is being moved from 1 Military Hospital to the Union Buildings until Friday — and will do so again for the trip to the Eastern Cape.

Speaking to The Witness, Abathembu chief Inkosi Thanduxolo Mtirara, said yesterday it was possible that not all the rituals would be performed as is customary.

“There are some traditional rituals that will not be performed, but talking to the spirit is a must,” Mtirara said, declining to say which rituals would not be performed.

Contralesa president and Inkosi Phathekile Holomisa said the relocation of the spirit was important to avoid it being “restless”.

“It is our belief that if the human spirit is not relocated, it could be restless, cause sicknesses and tragedies to the family until the spirit is relocated,” Holomisa said.

General secretary of the Professional Association of African and Traditional Practitioners of South Africa, Solly Nduku, said during the repatriation of the human spirit you communicate with the dead person throughout the journey even when you cross a river.

“If you stop to take a rest, you inform him and when you leave speak so that the spirit is not left behind,” he said.

Holomisa said the act of talking to Mandela’s spirit would have been started last Friday morning when he had been taken from his Houghton home to the 1 Military hospital.

Both Nduku and Holomisa said the responsibility of guiding the human spirit was assigned to a male, someone with authority and has spiritual mandate to ask his spirit to go home with the body.

Holomisa said the procedure would be followed tomorrow when Mandela is flown to the Mthatha Airport to be received by Abathembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo and senior members of royalty and the Mandela family before he was taken to his house at Qunu, and on the day of his funeral.