Thousands unite to say farewell to Madiba

2013-12-10 06:06
(GCIS, Sapa)

(GCIS, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Tens of thousands of South Africans and more than 90 world leaders are to gather for a massive four-hour memorial service to Nelson Mandela. Among those delivering speeches will be US President Barack Obama, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, China's Vice-President Li Yuanchao, President Raul Castro Ruz of Cuba and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The service will be held at the 95 000-capacity FNB stadium, near the Soweto where Mandela once lived.

It was here, at the 2010 football World Cup, that Mandela made his last public appearance.

The public is expected to begin arriving before dawn, with general seating at the open-air stadium on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rainfall is likely to dampen the event, with the South African Weather Service forecasting an 80% chance of precipitation.

Several nearby stadiums have been set aside to accommodate overflow crowds and dozens of more sites are being opened across the country where mourners can watch the events on large screens.

The service will start at about 11:00 with the singing of the national anthem by a mass choir.

Mandela's grandchildren and world dignities will then pay tribute to the peace icon, who died last Thursday at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95 after a lengthy illness.

Thousands of police officers are being called upon to safeguard the area around the service.

Mandela, the country's first black president and a Nobel peace laureate, is survived by his wife Graca Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, three daughters, 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Mandela's body is to lie in state from Wednesday to Friday when it will be flown to the rural Eastern Cape, where Mandela is to be buried on Sunday at a state funeral in his ancestral village of Qunu. At least 5 000 people are expected to attend the funeral and burial.

It's an emotional time for South Africans, and many around the world. Share your fondest memories of Madiba with us by either e-mailing or uploading.

Read more on:    nelson mandela

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