9 December 2013

South Africa: Jonathan, Obama, 57 Others for Mandela's Funeral

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Flowers outside Nelson Mandela's home (file photo).

President Goodluck Jonathan and his United States counterpart, Barack Obama, are among 59 world leaders expected in South Africa this week to attend the funeral rites of Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday.

Mandela, who died at his home in Johannesburg after months of battling a lung infection, is to be buried on December 15 at his ancestral home in Qunu, Eastern Cape, after a state funeral.

South Africa's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the 59 foreign heads of state or government had so far said they would attend either the memorial ceremony or the state funeral of Mandela in South Africa during the week.

He said the final number of who would attend either tomorrow's memorial in Johannesburg or the funeral in Qunu on Sunday would be confirmed during the week.

Jonathan, who is billed to leave Nigeria today, will attend the memorial for Mandela in Johannesburg along with Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as well as three other former US presidents - George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Many other heads of state will be there, including Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. Ahead of tomorrow's memorial, South Africans converged on churches and other public places yesterday to pray for their iconic leader.

The government has also given further details of the state funeral arrangements: tomorrow 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. It will be addressed by 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 from December 11-13, "selected international visitors and guests" will be able to view Mandela's remains at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The public will be able to view the body from noon to 5:30pm on Wednesday and from 8am to 5:30pm on Thursday and Friday.

His body will be transported on Saturday 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 funeral service will take place at Qunu - where Mandela grew up and later retired to - on Sunday. A national day of reconciliation will take place on December 16 when a statue of Mandela will be unveiled at the Union Building 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 will be 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 said. 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," Mandela said. I would just like a simple stone on which is written, 'Mandela'." In their first public statement, on Saturday, 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. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with FW de Klerk, South Africa's last white president.

At the memorial service yesterday, the congregation recalled Mandela's service to South Africa and the world and prayed for the repose of his soul.

At the Bryanston Methodist Church in Johannesburg, President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans not to forget the values 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 tomorrow while Mandela's body will lie in state in Pretoria on the following three days preparatory to a state funeral on December 15.

South Africans have been holding vigils since Mandela died after several months of ill health. Addressing the congregation in Johannesburg - including members of the Mandela family - Zuma praised 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," he said.

In yesterday's service at the Regina Mundi Church - which acted as a vital meeting place during the apartheid era - Priest Roussouw praised 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 Mandela by his clan name. In Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said Mandela was a powerful and continuing reminder that individuals do have the power to make change happen in the world.

At the memorial service for Mandela in Nigeria, Jonathan described those who threaten, boast and play little gods by virtue of their position as tiny men. According to him, this undermined the good character of leadership that Mandela exhibited and lived for.

Jonathan, at the memorial service held at the Aso Rock Chapel in Abuja, said Mandela was a man of humility, forgiving spirit and the ability to unite and reunite people. He said his attributes were in contrast with the utterances of some Nigerian politicians who speak "as if Nigeria is their bedroom" from where proclamation is made, as well as intimidating others.

He lamented the utterances of some local politicians, which he said were laden with hatred.

According to him, when he listens to some "politicians older than me, I come to the conclusion that it is truly difficult for a camel to pass through the eyes of a needle than for a politician to achieve greatness."

"Great names as we hear today in Nigeria are not enough" as the same names played repressive roles and ruled repressively during their days as rulers in this country."

He praised Mandela's selfless virtues, saying those who fought him and called him terrorists were now praising him to high heaven.

"For anybody that will make changes, don't expect praises, they will call you names but the end matters much," the president said.

Jonathan will leave Abuja today to join other world leaders in South Africa at events leading up to the burial of Mandela.

The president who will be accompanied by the supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, will attend the memorial service for Mandela tomorrow at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

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