Miriam Makeba's body returns to South Africa

The body of South African singer and anti-apartheid icon, Miriam Makeba, arrived back in her native Johannesburg Wednesday, three days after her death in Italy. Makeba, 76, who was known affectionately as Mama Africa, suffered a heart attack shortly after a performance on Sunday evening in southern Italy in support of a campaign against organized crime.

Family members, fellow musicians and Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan were at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to receive her remains.

Several artists have called for her to be given a state funeral, an honour usually given to stalwarts of the struggle against white minority rule.

Makeba's outspokenness on the apartheid regime saw her banned from South Africa and condemned to live in exile for 30 years - mainly in the United States, Guinea and Belgium - before returning to South Africa in 1990.

She was the first African to win a Grammy award in 1966, for an album she recorded with Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte.

But a close friend of Makeba's told a talkshow on SABC television Tuesday evening, however, that Mazi, as she was known to those closest to her, had not wanted a big funeral.

The friend said Makeba's ex-husband, jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, was responsible for the funeral arrangements.

Her remains are to be cremated in line with her wishes.

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