Mandela death: Scores of world leaders to head to S Africa

Will Ross reports on the mood of reconciliation at churches in Soweto

Some 60 heads of state or government have announced they will take part in the memorial service or state funeral of Nelson Mandela, South Africa says.

US President Barack Obama, Francois Hollande of France and UK PM David Cameron will be among those attending Tuesday's memorial at a Soweto stadium.

South Africa's first black president died on Thursday and the nation has held a day of prayer and reflection.

Mourners in their millions visited places of worship and community halls.

At Soweto's Regina Mundi Catholic Church, a centre of the anti-apartheid struggle, the priest Sebastian Roussouw said the late leader had been "a light in the darkness".

"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.

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 ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was among the congregation at the Bryanston Methodist church in Johannesburg, where President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans not to forget the values he had stood for.

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

Over the next eight days, a series of events will commemorate the man who steered their country out of white-minority rule.

From Bono to Ban Ki-moon

International leaders, global figures and celebrities will join 95,000 ordinary South Africans at the memorial service at FNB stadium in Soweto, where Nelson Mandela made his final major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.

The event is likely to be one of the biggest such gatherings of international dignitaries in recent years. The government said 59 leaders had so far confirmed they would be attending: an indication of the special place Mr Mandela held in people's hearts across the world, officials say.

Among those on the list are UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German President Joachim Gauck, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Crown Prince Felipe of Spain.

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

Three former US presidents, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, will join President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and India's Pranab Mukherjee will also be there. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has not yet confirmed whether he will travel.

Leading celebrities in the anti-apartheid movement Peter Gabriel and Bono are also expected to attend as are former international leaders such as Marti Ahtisaari who, along with Mr Mandela, were part of a group known as The Elders, promoting peace and human rights.

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

A smaller number of international dignitaries including the Prince of Wales will attend the burial in the Eastern Cape village of Qunu, where the late president grew up.

While Tuesday's memorial service will clearly be a big organisational challenge, the state funeral will be a greater logistical one because of its rural remoteness, BBC correspondent Mike Woodridge reports.

Women pray in Soweto (8 Dec) Worshippers crowded into churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to celebrate Nelson Mandela's life
Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela attended Mass in Johannesburg Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela attended Mass in Johannesburg
Crowds continued to gather outside Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton Crowds continued to gather outside Nelson Mandela's home in Houghton
A stage is being built in the village of Qunu for next Sunday's funeral A stage is being built in the village of Qunu for next Sunday's funeral
'Guard of honour'

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

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.

Mourners and well wishers 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.

His body will be taken each morning 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".

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

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 in Soweto, 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, Dobsonville and Rand
  • 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 ceremony will be held.
  • 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

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.

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Nelson Mandela

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'."

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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