President Goodluck Jonathan and his United States counterpart, Barack Obama, are among 59 world leaders expected in South Africa this week to attend the funeral rites of Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday.
Mandela, who died at his home in Johannesburg after months of battling a lung infection, is to be buried on December 15 at his ancestral home in Qunu, Eastern Cape, after a state funeral.
South Africa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the 59 foreign heads of state or government had so far said they would attend either the memorial ceremony or the state funeral of Mandela in South Africa during the week.
He said the final number of who would attend either tomorrow’s memorial in Johannesburg or the funeral in Qunu on Sunday would be confirmed during the week.
Jonathan, who is billed to leave Nigeria today, will attend the memorial for Mandela in Johannesburg along with Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as well as three other former US presidents – George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Many other heads of state will be there, including Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. Ahead of tomorrow’s memorial, South Africans converged on churches and other public places yesterday to pray for their iconic leader.
The government has also given further details of the state funeral arrangements: today is the day for South Africa’s official memorial service at the FNB Stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg, which will attract world leaders as well as ordinary South Africans. It will be addressed by Zuma with tributes from other heads of state.
The memorial service will be shown on big screens at three “overflow” stadiums – Orlando in Soweto, Dobsonville north of Soweto and Rand in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville from December 11-13, “selected international visitors and guests” will be able to view Mandela’s remains at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The public will be able to view the body from noon to 5:30pm on Wednesday and from 8am to 5:30pm on Thursday and Friday.
His body will be transported on Saturday from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to the Eastern Cape, with a procession from the airport at Mthatha to his home village of Qunu, where a traditional ceremony will be held.
A funeral service will take place at Qunu – where Mandela grew up and later retired to – on Sunday. A national day of reconciliation will take place on December 16 when a statue of Mandela will be unveiled at the Union Building in Pretoria. Some 90 screens will be set up across the country to show all planned national events.
Flags at all official buildings are to remain at half-mast throughout the period and books of condolence will be circulated across the country and online for people to post tributes, record memories and express their emotions.
International figures will also attend the funeral in Qunu. The Prince of Wales will represent Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace said. A government statement recalled the former president’s own thoughts when asked how he wished to be remembered. “It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered,” Mandela said. I would just like a simple stone on which is written, ‘Mandela’.” In their first public statement, on Saturday, Mandela’s family likened him to a baobab tree that had provided shade and protection.