South Africa seems to be headed for a midweek shutdown as the nation prepares to rollout what is set to become the biggest funeral procession ever in modern history for former president Nelson Mandela.
Mandela, who died at the age of 95 on the 5th of December 2013, is set to be laid to rest on Sunday the 15th of December in his birth place in Qunu, a village in the Eastern Cape. About 50 heads of states including US President Barak Obama are expected to attend Mandela’s funeral processions.
The South African President Jacob Zuma has declared 10 days of mourning which will be characterised by a packed official and nonofficial processions leading to the day of the funeral. These include a special joint seating of parliament today in Cape Town
Moving from a weekend filled with extraordinary rituals across the country, a massive and serialised memorial service is planned for Tuesday, the 13th of December 2013. This will be anchored by a memorial service at the FNB Stadium outside Soweto in Johannesburg. The minister in the presidency Collins Chabane said Zuma will address the main memorial service at FNB Stadium which will accommodate the general public, VIPs and VVIPs.
The procession at the FNB Stadium, one the biggest stadiums in the world with capacity to accommodate 90000 people seated, will be supported by two other venues, Orlando Stadium, Ellis Park Stadium and Dobsonville Stadium. If these three venues are filled to capacity there will be more than 200000 people gathered in the main venues of Johannesburg.
From Wednesday to Saturday Mandela’s body will lie in in state for viewing at the Union Building ion Pretoria.
Chabane did characterise the unfolding events as leading towards the funeral as a “historic, unprecedented State Funeral.”
From today, said Chabane yesterday, we will see the arrival of a large contingent of Heads of State and Government and a broad range of eminent persons, including royalty.
The fact that international leaders are making their way to South Africa at such short notice, reflects the special place President Mandela holds in the hearts of people around the globe.”
We are touched by the fact that many countries have declared periods of mourning, ordered that flags be flown at half-mast and draped or lit landmarks in the colours of the South African flag. We truly appreciate these gestures.”
We appreciate the willingness showed by a broad range of eminent persons to come to South Africa to join us personally at this time of mourning, reflection and celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy.”
From the US Barack Obama and his wife were confirmed to be coming to South Africa and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and their spouses and 26 Congressmen.
Also confirmed are Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff and former presidents Sarney, Melo, Cardoso and Lula da Silva.
Chabane said 13 African states have confirmed attendance, in addition to 15 from outside the continent. “We expect more confirmations, and we wish to reiterate that our international guests are most welcome as they join us at this difficult time.”
Scenes that characterised the week following the release of Mandela from prison on the 11th of February 1990 are expected to be replayed. Such scenes were already visible across the country over the weekend. Vilakazi Street in Soweto where the historic Nelson Mandela house is located was turned into a massive Mandela celebration carnival over the weekend (See our pictures on our Facebook page).