WORLD leaders, kings, queens and presidents are expected to attend this weekend’s funeral for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
Across the country, South Africans have already started honouring Mandela, who died on Thursday at the age of 95, and hundreds of thousands of mourners are expected to participate in next week’s official services.
The Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister David Cameron are all expected to attend, as are three American presidents and their families – the Obamas, the Clintons and the Bushes.
Official services honouring Mandela will begin on Tuesday with a major memorial planned at FNB Stadium on the edge of Johannesburg’s Soweto township.
Government minister Collins Chabane said he expects massive crowds far beyond what the stadium’s normal 95,000-person capacity could hold and that there would be “overflow” areas set up. “We can’t tell people not to come,” he said.
Those planning Mandela’s funeral include the former president’s family, the federal government, the military and the African National Congress party.
It is unclear which ceremony world leaders will attend, either Tuesday’s stadium memorial or the planned funeral service on 15 December in Qunu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s rural hometown in Eastern Cape Province.
Mandela’s body will rest in state on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of government power in South Africa’s capital, and will be held overnight on those days at a military hospital on Pretoria’s outskirts.
Residents will line the streets to serve as a guard of honour as Mandela’s body passes twice each day.
Today has been declared a national day of prayer and reflection over Mandela’s death.
The government has announced that a special sitting of the two houses of parliament will be held tomorrow to pay tribute to Mandela, the country’s first black and democratically-elected president.