Former South African President Nelson Mandela at a large Soweto shopping mall that opened on September 27, 2007., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
World leaders gather for Mandela funeral
December 10, 2013
JOHANNESBURG. — South Africa struggled yesterday to meet the unprecedented logistical challenge of hosting close to 100 world leaders flying in from every corner of the globe for the state funeral of former president Nelson Mandela.“The world literally is coming to South Africa,” said the government’s head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela.
“I don’t think it has ever happened before,” Monyela said of the wave of 91 leaders, including US President Barack Obama, bearing down on the country.
Many will join the 80,000 people expected to cram today into the FNB stadium in Soweto for a tribute to South Africa’s first black president.
The memorial service, in the venue where Mandela made his last major public appearance for the 2010 World Cup final, is seen as a final chance for grieving South Africans to unite in a mass celebration of his life ahead of the more formal state funeral.
Although Mandela had been critically ill for months, the announcement of his death on Thursday night still rocked a country that had looked to his unassailable moral authority as a comforting constant in a time of uncertain social and economic change.
“I don’t think you are ever prepared enough,” said Zelda la Grange, who was Mandela’s long-time personal assistant both during and after his presidency.
“We had prepared ourselves emotionally but still we are overcome by this feeling of loss and sadness,” La Grange said.
A single candle was lit in Mandela’s tiny prison cell on Robben Island, where he spent the harshest of his 27 years in apartheid jails, before emerging to lead his country into a multi-racial democracy.
The week-long funeral rites will culminate Sunday in Mandela’s burial at a family plot in his boyhood home of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
The government has sought to dissuade A-list dignitaries from attending, citing Qunu’s rural location, the lack of amenities and limited space.
Prior to the burial, Mandela’s body will lie in state for three days from tomorrow in the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings in Pretoria where he was sworn in as president in 1994.
Each morning, his coffin will be carried through the streets of the capital in a funeral cortège, to give as many people as possible the chance to pay their final respects.
Around 11,000 troops have been mobilised to ensure security and help with crowd control efforts during the week-long series of funeral events.
Despite the sudden influx of international dignitaries and the compressed preparation time, National Police spokesman Solomon Makgale insisted that the security apparatus could cope.
“Having so many heads of state is not a security headache for us. We’ve learned over the years,” Makgale said, adding that they would be “working closely” with the foreign leaders’ own security details.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was among the first to arrive, visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg where he paid tribute to a leader whose life touched millions.
Parliament met in special session yesterday, with MPs carrying single red roses as they entered the assembly building that was flanked by giant portraits of Mandela in tribal dress and as an elder statesman.
Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and grandson Mandla are both ruling African National Congress (ANC) members of parliament, but neither participated in the session.
Former president FW de Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel peace Prize with Mandela, was invited but did not attend. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the day the two men received the prize in Oslo.Cuban state media said President Raul Castro would attend the state funeral, but not his older brother Fidel – a long time friend of Mandela’s.
Notable absentees include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who cited high travel and security costs, and Mandela’s fellow Nobel peace laureate, the Dalai Lama, who since 2009 has twice been denied a visa for South Africa.
PORT ELIZABETH. — South African traditional leaders are calling on the government to allow adequate space for customary burial rites when Nelson Mandela is finally laid to rest Sunday.
“On Sunday next week, when we put him in his grave, all the rituals will be conducted by the Royal House,” Xhosa traditional leader Nokuzola Mndende told AFP.
“It will be a traditional ritual and the government should take a back seat and not interfere,” she added. Mandela was born into the Thembu royal family, the leaders of a Xhosa-speaking people. “An ox will be slaughtered to accompany him. It is only the Mandela clan which will conduct the rituals on burial day to prepare him for a safe journey.”
“All the taking at the grave will be done by the Mandela clan elders,” Mndende explained.
“If government intervenes, the ancestors will not accept and welcome him, and this will have a detrimental effect on the family members left behind as his spirit will come back to haunt them.”
Mandela is due to be buried at his childhood home of Qunu on Sunday, part of a week-long celebration of his life.
In contrast to a stadium memorial in Soweto and a laying in state in Pretoria, Mandela’s hometown burial will be more traditional, a mixture of Christian and traditional Xhosa rites.