A farewell like no other for great unifier

Lehlogonolo Nkosi, 7, holds a portrait of Nelson Mandela. Photo / AP
Lehlogonolo Nkosi, 7, holds a portrait of Nelson Mandela. Photo / AP

South Africa will say goodbye to Nelson Mandela over 10 days of mourning culminating in a state funeral likely to be attended by world leaders including David Cameron, Barack Obama and Pope Francis.

South African president Jacob Zuma announced Mandela will be buried on December 15 in his home village of Qunu, following a memorial service in the 95,000-seat football stadium where he made his last public appearance during the 2010 World Cup.

Prince Charles is expected to attend as the representative of Queen Elizabeth, who no longer makes long haul journeys.

Mandela's coffin will be driven on a final 28km journey from a local airport to his home village. The farewell will be unlike any event in South Africa's history.

The body of the man known as "Tata", or father, was taken from his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton yesterday in a glass sided hearse which revealed his coffin draped in South Africa's national flag.

Accompanied by a large police escort, it was driven slowly north to the capital, Pretoria, where it will be kept at a military hospital until the memorial service on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, South Africa's parliament will hold a joint sitting to honour the man who ushered democracy into their fractured nation.

In London, MPs will honour the former freedom fighter with a similar session in the House of Commons, where David Cameron, the Prime Minister, Ed Miliband, the leader of the Opposition, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will lead the tributes.

Mandela's memorial service will be held on Tuesday at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. Singing and dancing will play a key role in the event, whose compere has been mooted as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the cleric who fought apartheid alongside Mandela. The following day, his body will return to Pretoria where, in a glass coffin, it will lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings, where he was sworn into office almost 20 years ago.

At the same time, members of Mandela's large family, ANC officials and Government ministers will attend more memorial services in all of South Africa's provinces and regions.

As the second weekend after his death nears, his body will be flown 885km to Qunu, the tiny village in the Eastern Cape province where Mandela grew up and spent most of his retirement.

The former president is understood to have chosen his own burial spot, on a hillside within his family's compound, overlooking the green fields where he tended cattle and played as a boy.

- Daily Telegraph

- Daily Telegraph UK

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