Mandela death: 'Day of prayer' in South Africa

President Zuma paid tribute to Nelson Mandela: "He believed in caring and he cared for our nation"

People in South Africa are taking part in a day of prayer and reflection for Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday.

At the Bryanston Methodist church in Johannesburg, President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans not to forget the values Mr Mandela stood for.

At the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, priest Sebastian Roussouw said the late president had been "a light in the darkness".

A national memorial service is due to be held on Tuesday.

At the scene

Bishop Mosa Sono summed up the mood in this extremely religious nation when he told thousands of worshippers at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto: "Thank God for Madiba."

An image of Nelson Mandela's face was displayed on the screen, while his famous "I'm prepared to die" speech was played to the congregation, so numerous that plastic chairs had been set up outside the main hall to accommodate them.

"We are celebrating his life, not mourning his passing," said Tebeho Mahlope, 34. "He was old, he needed to rest, he has done what he needed to do," said Pamela Mpanza, 29.

The nearby Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, known as "the people's church", was used by anti-apartheid campaigners as a secure venue to plan their outlawed activities after Mr Mandela was arrested.

Here too, the priest spoke of the light and hope the "Father of the Nation" had brought to South Africa and the world.

Mr Mandela's body will lie in state in Pretoria on the following three days and he will be given a state funeral on 15 December.

About 60 heads of state and government have confirmed they will attend the memorial service or the funeral, the government says.

South Africans have been holding vigils since Mr Mandela died at home at the age of 95, after several months of ill health.

Addressing the congregation in Johannesburg - including members of the Mandela family - Mr Zuma praised Mr Mandela for his commitment to peace and reconciliation.

"He stood for freedom, he fought against those who oppressed others. He wanted everyone to be free."

In Sunday's service at the Regina Mundi Church - which acted as a vital meeting place during the apartheid era - priest Sebastian Roussouw praised Mr Mandela for his "humility and forgiveness".

"Madiba did not doubt the light. He paved the way for a better future, but he cannot do it alone," he said, referring to Mr Mandela by his clan name.

In Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said Mr Mandela was a powerful and continuing reminder that individuals do have the power to make change happen in the world.

Women pray above Johannesburg (8 Dec 2013) These women began the day with prayers in the hills over Johannesburg
Members of the MK outside Mandela's home in Houghton (8 Dec 2013) Members of the MK, the military wing of the ANC, paid their respects outside Mr Mandela's former home in Houghton, Johannesburg
Women at Mandela's old home in Houghton, Johannesburg (7 Dec 2013) Thousands of floral tributes have been left outside the Houghton house
Security on patrol in Qunu (8 Dec 2013) Mr Mandela will be buried in his home of Qunu on Sunday - security there has been stepped up

Mr Mandela's successor as president, Thabo Mbeki, will attend a service at the Oxford Shul synagogue in Johannesburg in the afternoon.

Other senior politicians and ANC officials are attending services across the country, in what correspondents say it an attempt to involve more scattered communities.

'Guard of honour'

The focal points for public remembrance have so far been Mr Mandela's house in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton and his old home in Soweto.

Karen Allen in Cape Town: "Many of the congregants... have come together, drawn by what the Dean described as comfort in solidarity"

Mourners and wellwishers there have lit candles and laid thousands of wreaths of flowers.

Mr Mandela's body will lie in state on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the heart of the South African government in Pretoria, before his funeral on Sunday.

His body will be taken each day at 07:00 from the mortuary to the city hall through the streets of Pretoria. Members of the public have been encouraged to line the route and form a "guard of honour".

The family will view the body on Wednesday morning before the public are allowed to file past from 12:00.


The government has also given further details of the state funeral arrangements.

  • Tuesday, 10 December is the day for South Africa's official memorial service at the FNB Stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg, which will attract world leaders as well as ordinary South Africans and will be addressed by President Zuma with tributes from other heads of state
  • The memorial service will be shown on big screens at three "overflow" stadiums - Orlando in Soweto, Dobsonville north of Soweto and Rand in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville
  • Between 11-13 December, "selected international visitors and guests" will be able to view Mr Mandela's remains at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
  • The public will be able to view the body from 12:00 to 17:30 on Wednesday and from 08:00 to 17:30 on Thursday and Friday
  • His body will be transported on Saturday, 14 December, from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to the Eastern Cape, with a procession from the airport at Mthatha to his home village of Qunu where a traditional funeral will be held on 15 December
  • A national day of reconciliation will take place on 16 December when a statue of Mr Mandela will be unveiled at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
  • Some 90 screens will be set up across the country to show all planned national events

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend Tuesday's memorial service, along with three other former US presidents, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

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Nelson Mandela

Many other heads of state will be there, including Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff.

Flags at all official buildings are to remain at half mast throughout the period and books of condolence are being circulated across the country and online for people to post tributes, record memories and express their emotions.

International figures will also attend the funeral in Qunu. The Prince of Wales will represent Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace says.

A government statement recalled the former president's own thoughts when asked how he wished to be remembered.

"It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered," Mr Mandela said.

"I'd leave that entirely to South Africans. I would just like a simple stone on which is written, 'Mandela'."

In their first public statement, on Saturday, Mr Mandela's family likened him to a baobab tree that had provided shade and protection.

The former South African leader spent 27 years in jail before becoming the country's first black president in 1994.

He served a single term before stepping down in 1999.

Mr Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with FW de Klerk, South Africa's last white president.

Mandela funeral map

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