World leaders line up to bid Mandela farewell

9 December 2013

Some 70 heads of state have confirmed that they will be attending the memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation reported on Monday.

The memorial service, to be held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday, is shaping up to include one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history.

US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron will be among those attending the memorial service, along with former US presidents George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The government has been working around the clock on the preparations for the event, with most of the world leaders due to arrive in South Africa on Monday.

“The world literally is coming to South Africa,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, told reporters in Pretoria on Monday morning. “On the numbers for the memorial service, we are sitting at over 70 heads of state and government in office and we are looking at 10 for former heads of state and government.”

Monyela said the large number of high-profile guests was unprecedented.

“I don’t think it has ever happened before,” he said, adding that the United Nations would be represented by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the African Union by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, “and we have princes and princesses, kings and queens coming”.

Monyela said it was a tough task logistically, but that the government was up to the challenge and would ensure that everything went according to plan.

The majority of international guests will not travel to Qunu in the Eastern Cape for Mandela’s funeral, which is taking place on Sunday, 15 December.

For the memorial service, once the venue is full, people will be redirected to three other stadiums that will be broadcasting the event on giant screens: Ellis Park in Johannesburg, and Orlando Stadium and Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto.

Cars will not be allowed near the stadiums, but special bus and train services will be running. The event is scheduled to start at 11am, with the stadium entrances scheduled to open at 6am.