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Nelson Mandela: World leaders to gather for service

A memorial service for Nelson Mandela will be held tomorrow. Picture: Getty

A memorial service for Nelson Mandela will be held tomorrow. Picture: Getty

  • by ALASTAIR DALTON
 

DOZENS of heads of state and government leaders will attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela tomorrow in one of the largest such gatherings for generations.

Five days later, Prince Charles, representing the Queen, will be among others paying their respects at Mr Mandela’s state funeral and burial on Sunday at his home at Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Details of those taking part in the events came yesterday as Mr Mandela was honoured by millions at church services and religious gatherings in a national day of prayer and reflection across South Africa.

Mr Mandela died last Thursday at the age of 95.

Among tens of thousands of people expected at the memorial service at Johannesburg’s FNB stadium will be 59 heads of state, including United States president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

They will be joined by three former presidents: George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Prime Minister David Cameron will take part, but the Scottish Government was unable to say last night whether Alex Salmond would attend either service. A spokeswoman said: “Arrangements are not finalised”.

Others confirmed for tomorrow’s service include United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and his predecessor Kofi Annan, French president François Hollande and Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

Presidents, prime ministers or monarchs from Canada, Germany, Spain, Brazil, India, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh will also be there.

A delegation from The Elders, a group of former statesmen which Mr Mandela helped to launch, will also attend, including former Irish head of state Mary Robinson and ex-Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and singer Peter Gabriel will also be there.

The South African government said: “This will give ordinary people and public leaders an opportunity to celebrate Madiba’s life collectively,” in a reference to the clan name Mr Mandela was known by.

The week of mourning and funeral events, split between Johannesburg, the capital Pretoria where Mr Mandela’s body will lie in state, and the Qunu funeral site, will present the government with its biggest logistical and organisational test since South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup.

Prince Charles has made several visits to South Africa and is understood to have sent a private letter of condolence to Mr Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel. The Duchess of Cornwall will not accompany him.

Prince Charles and Prince Harry visited South Africa in 1997 and met Mr Mandela at his Pretoria residence.

In yesterday’s day of prayer, the life of the “Father of the Nation” was celebrated in churches, mosques, synagogues and community halls.

President Jacob Zuma, in a eulogy at a Methodist service in Johannesburg, said: “We felt it important we should have a day where all of us as South Africans can come together and pray for our first democratic president and reflect on his legacy.

“But it is also to pray for our nation – to pray we do not forget some of the values he fought for.

“He believed in forgiveness and he forgave even those who kept him in jail for 27 years.

“He stood for freedom. He fought against those who oppressed others. He wanted everyone to be free.”

At the cavernous Regina Mundi church, South Africa’s largest Catholic church, which was at the epicentre of the Soweto township uprising in 1976 against white rule, hundreds of mourners gathered to pray for Mr Mandela and the nation’s future.

Father Sebastian Rossouw described Mr Mandela as “moonlight,” saying he offered a guiding light for South Africa.

He said: “Madiba did not doubt the light. He paved the way for a better future, but he cannot do it alone.”

In Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral, where anti-apartheid campaigners sought solace and refuge in the 1980s, some in the packed congregation of locals and tourists shed tears during a tribute to Mr Mandela by the Anglican dean, Michael Weeder.

He said: “He was an exposition of the African spirit of generosity. And as he dies, he lives again and again. He is resurrected in every act of kindness.”

Other denominations held outdoor services in fields and parks, while Muslims in the mostly Indian neighbourhood of Lenasia in south Johannesburg held a commemoration in a local hall.

A new statue of Mr Mandela will be unveiled at the government’s Union Buildings in Pretoria a week today to mark Reconciliation Day, named in 1994 in an attempt to help heal 300 years of white dominance.

The date previously commemorated the defeat of 10,000 Zulus by 500 Afrikaners at the Battle of Blood River in 1838.

Sombreness prevailed as leader’s last hours passed

A family friend who visited Nelson Mandela in his last hours said he was not on life support and appeared to be calmly sleeping, but “giving up”.

Bantu Holomisa, a former deputy minister in Mr Mandela’s government, said his wife Graca and former wife Winnie, one of his daughters and several of his grandchildren were among 20 family members in the house, where “sombreness” prevailed.

He said: “I’ve seen people who are on their last hours and I could sense that he is now giving up.”

The family yesterday called on South Africans to help keep Mr Mandela’s dream alive. A statement said: “Though he answered to the name father, husband, granddad, son and statesman, we all understood ultimately that Tata remains an inspiration not only to us but to the nation.”

Family spokesman Lieutenant General Themba Templeton Matanzima said: “We know and know too well that you the people of the world will not fail Mandela. We hope you will join us with all the passion, fever, prayer and support [to] keep his dream alive.”

The family also thanked all religious communities for holding prayer services for Mr Mandela yesterday.

They said: “Our burden and pain and sorrow is being lessened by the outpouring.

“Both our mothers, Graca Machel and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, express their conviction that Nelson Mandela, like a flower, will continue to blossom in all your hearts forever.”

READ MORE:

Scotland’s politicians pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

Obituary: Nelson Mandela, former South African president

Jim Murphy on Nelson Mandela’s global influence

Glasgow at Mandela’s side on road to freedom

 

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