Mandela funeral plans on track

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A woman stands in her garden behind a fence at the perimeter of former president Nelson Mandela's property in Qunu, as funeral preparations continue. Mandela will be buried in Qunu, his ancestral home in the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Johannesburg - The international presence expected at Nelson Mandela's state funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday is somewhat watered down from the dignitaries who attended his memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“The state funeral... is expected to be attended by several heads of state and government, former heads of state, eminent persons, heads of delegation, heads of international organisations and the diplomatic corps,” said international relations department spokesman Clayson Monyela on Friday.

Britain's Prince Charles, Malawian President Joyce Banda, Lesotho's King Letsie III, and current and former statesmen from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Zambia were among the guests expected at the funeral in the rural Eastern Cape area in which South Africa's first democratically elected president spent much of his childhood.

Iran's Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari would also attend, alongside representatives of Norway and France.

African Union Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the European Union representative in SA Roeland van der Geer would pay their respects, as would American civil rights activist Jessie Jackson.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told SABC television news on Friday that most heads of state understood attending the memorial service was sufficient.

He said the logistics at Qunu were limited.

“It would have been irresponsible to have 101 heads of state at Qunu. They would never get the space (needed).”

A memorial service - attended by, among others, US President Barack Obama, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, Cuba's President Raul Castro - as well as top leaders from India, Brazil, and China, was held at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.

This after Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday last week at the age of 95.

Meanwhile, the SA National Defence Force said preparations for the state funeral on Sunday - expected to be attended by 5000 people - were proceeding well.

“Everything is on track in terms of arrangements for the funeral,” spokesman Lt-Gen Xolani Mabangu said.

Friday is the third and final day in which Mandela's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The body will be returned to One Military Hospital overnight and flown to the Eastern Cape on Saturday.

“Tomorrow 1/8Saturday 3/8 at the Waterkloof Military Airbase... the body will be formally and officially handed over to the ANC 1/8for them 3/8 to conduct their ceremony in honour of him,” said Mabangu.

He said chief mourners among the Madiba clan and Mandela family, as well as senior government officials, would accompany the body.

The New Age reported that all AbaThembu traditions would be observed once the body arrived at the Mthatha Airport on Saturday morning.

“The king (Buyelekhyua Dalindyebo) will tell Madiba that he is there to receive him. The kin will salute Madiba and the procession will go to Mthatha city centre,” chief Mfundo Bhovulengwe Mtirara told the paper.

“We will then move the body to iNdlu eNkulu (great house) at Qunu and then hand the body to reverends (ministers).”

The great house is usually the first rondavel built at a homestead.

The New Age reported the body would be handed over to leaders of the Methodist church in the afternoon.

A public vigil would be held on Saturday night at the Walter Sisulu University's Nelson Mandela Drive campus.

After the state funeral had concluded, the abaThembu would receive the body to bury it according to royal protocol.

“Our king will salute Madiba three times saying: “Aah! Dalibhunga (Mandela's salutation name).”

Mandela would then be buried.

Part of the customary burial process is to slaughter an ox and sheep. Mandela is from the royal family of the AbaThembu.


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