Johannesburg - Presidents past and present, global figures
and A-list celebrities are making their way to South Africa on Monday to pay
the world's respects at a memorial service and state funeral for freedom icon
More than 80 000 people will attend an impassioned,
emotional tribute on Tuesday to the country's inspirational first black
president at the FNB stadium in Soweto, where he made his last major public
appearance for the 2010 World Cup final.
The service is seen as a final chance for grieving South
Africans to unite in a mass celebration of Mandela's life ahead of the more
formal state funeral.
Although Mandela had been critically ill for months, the
announcement of his death on Thursday night was still a body blow for a country
that had looked to his unassailable moral authority as a comforting constant in
a time of uncertain social and economic change.
Permanent day and night vigils have been held outside the
Johannesburg residence where he died - the mood alternating between one of
profound loss and relief that his physical suffering was over.
"Madiba was our version, the South African version, of
the great Mahatma Gandhi," said Laloo Isu Chiba, a fellow prison inmate of
Mandela's on Robben Island.
"For many, many, many generations to come, it will be
almost impossible to get a person ... with his commitment, his dedication and
his qualities," Chiba said.
Sunday marked the formal start of a week-long state funeral
for the man who forged a new multi-racial South Africa from the discredited
remnants of the apartheid era he helped dismantle.
On Monday, Parliament will meet for a special session to
honour Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison to lead his country out of
the shadow of apartheid into a multi-racial democracy.
Mandela last appeared in the house in February 2010, on the
20th anniversary of his prison release.
His former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and grandson
Mandla are both African National Congress MPs, but it was unclear if they would
participate in the session.
"We hope some members of the Mandela family will be
there," ANC caucus spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.
Former president FW de Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel
peace Prize with Mandela, was also invited.
Winnie and Mandla both attended a Methodist service in
Johannesburg on Sunday as part of a national day of prayer for Mandela observed
in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples across the country.
President Jacob Zuma used the occasion to make a passionate
public appeal for South Africans to unite behind Mandela's ideals of equality,
freedom and justice and to "keep his dream alive".
70 heads of state
US President Barack Obama together with his wife Michelle
and three previous occupants of the White House were among the roughly 70 heads
of state and government flying in from every corner of the globe.
While Obama will attend Tuesday's memorial service at the
Soweto stadium, others will arrive later in the week for Mandela's burial on 15
December in his boyhood home of Qunu.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President
Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are all expected, along
with a long-list of international dignitaries and marquee celebrities.
One leader notable by his absence will be Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to the costs involved, according to Israeli
Mandela's fellow Nobel peace laureate, the Dalai Lama, who
since 2009 has twice been denied a visa for South Africa, will also not attend,
his spokesperson said.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has announced that he
will attend Tuesday's memorial service.
Among the other world leaders scheduled to attend is Goodluck Jonathan and more than a dozen other African heads of state
Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and singer-activist Bono, as
well as British billionaire Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel are expected
to be among the celebrity mourners.
Around 11 000 troops have been mobilised to ensure security
and help with crowd control efforts during the week-long series of funeral
Prior to his burial, Mandela's body will lie in state for
three days from Wednesday in the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings in
Pretoria where was sworn in as president in 1994.
Each morning, his coffin will be carried through the streets
of the capital in a funeral cortege, to give as many people as possible the
chance to pay their final respects.
comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and
tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.