15 December 2013

South Africa: Thousands Pay Their Last Respects to Mandela

Photo: PHOTOESSAY: State Funeral of Nelson Mandela

Members of the South African National Defence Force accompany the casket of former South African president Nelson Mandela to the state funeral.

Hundreds of mourners have started flooding into the giant white marquee at the late former President Nelson Mandela's home, where his funeral, is taking place today. Up to 4 500 people are expected to be accommodated inside the venue for the two-hour funeral service expected to start at 8am.

Among those who have already arrived include Premiers, Cabinet ministers and members of the judiciary. Politicians, socialites and religious leaders are also part of those who have come to pay their last respects to the man, who had greatly contributed to South Africa's democracy and struggle for liberation. Inside the tent, the stage is decorated with stylish green and white flowers and a line of candles is burning slowly near a portrait of Mandela on the main stage. It's a stunning sight fit for a man of Mandela's stature.

A group of ANC supporters, who have turned up in numbers chanting struggle songs and waving the party's flag, were joined by members of the party's women's league dressed in green and gold.

The funeral service will be opened with a popular Xhosa hymn 'Lizalis' idinga lakho' and this will be followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

Speakers on the programme include Chief Ngangomhlaba Mathanzima, representing the family. He will be followed by Mandela's close friend and comrade Ahmed Kathrada.

Tributes will come from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn, Malawi President Joyce Banda and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete. President Jacob Zuma will give the oration.

Mandela will be buried next to his relatives at the family grave site, in a ceremony to be attended only by 400 invited guests. Government has called for privacy and respect during the funeral service of the late icon.

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