SA prepares to bid farewell
Country gears up for world’s biggest funeral Obama, Prince Charles on guest list
SOUTH Africa is preparing for what is being touted as the biggest funeral in history, with world leaders including US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and even Prince Charles apparently on the guest list.
A mourning period of 10 days has been set aside for the farewell to world peace icon and South Africa’s first democraticallyelected president, Nelson Mandela.
From Wednesday to Friday the anti-apartheid hero’s body will lie in state, reportedly in a glasstopped coffin, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
President Jacob Zuma has meanwhile declared tomorrow a day of “national prayer and reflection” in Mandela’s honour.
In the Western Cape there will be opportunities for people to pay their respects at 160 “Places of Tribute”, where they can sign condolence books and leave floral tributes (See Page 8 for full details).
Premier Helen Zille announced yesterday that all tribute sites would be open from this morning.
Funeral plans include Mandela being laid to rest in his home town of Qunu in the Eastern Cape next Sunday.
Zuma called on South Africans to gather tomorow “in halls, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and in their homes for prayer services and meditation, reflecting on the life of Madiba and his contribution to our country and the world”.
At the Grand Parade last night a large crowd gathered for an interfaith service in honour of Mandela while a bank of flowers and messages of thanks, tributes and famous Mandela quotes were placed by Capetonians in front of the City Hall balcony, where, in 1990, Mandela gave his first public speech after his release from prison.
Mandela’s official memorial service will take place on Tuesday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. Zuma said memorial services would be held in provinces and regions during the mourning period.
“We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived, a life that we must all emulate for the betterment of our country and Africa.”
The president thanked South Africans for the dignity, respect and support they had provided to the Mandela family.
Meanwhile, struggle stalwart Bantu Holomisa has said that Mandela lay on his deathbed in his final moments, surrounded by those who loved him, including his wife, Graça Machel, his family, elders from his Thembu clan and a priest.
“I can’t describe what happened,” Holomisa said. “I went into Tata’s bedroom. There were a few people there. I could see things were not the same … I was privileged to be invited by the family to see Madiba in his last few hours.”
News on the heads of state headed for South Africa to pay their respects includes an unnamed source saying that Obama and his entourage have booked out the Radisson Blu hotel in Sandton.
It is believed that Obama will travel with his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia. The White House said in a statement that Obama had already phoned Zuma to express “his heartfelt condolences on the death of former president Nelson Mandela”.
“The president conveyed how profoundly Mandela’s extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility influenced his own life, as well as those of millions around the world,” the statement said.
The UK’s Daily Mail reported that other well-known personalities expected in South Africa included media mogul Oprah Winfrey and former US president Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. They also named U2 frontman Bono as expected to attend the funeral.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, meanwhile, said the ANC would “all” move to the Eastern Cape next Saturday, prior to the state funeral.
FLORAL TRIBUTE: Stella Buckland adds her flowers to a bank of floral tributes on the Grand Parade, where hundreds of people turned out for an inter-faith service last night.
INDIA MOURNS: Schoolchildren hold candles and portraits of Nelson Mandela during a prayer ceremony at a school in the southern Indian city of Chennai.