Memorial guests start taking their seats

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U2's lead singer Bono and Charlize Theron attend the memorial service of Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium. Photo: AFP

Johannesburg - High profile guests at the memorial for former president Nelson Mandela began taking their seats on the main stage at the FNB stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.

The dignitaries formed a sea of black as they walked across the pitch to their seats with umbrellas raised to shield themselves from pouring rain.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa began addressing the crowd, and an army band marched.

Mandela's widow Graca Machel, who was sombre in a black coat, dress and turban, sat on one of the stages placed on the pitch.

Also present was Mandela's grandson, Ndaba Mandela, and other Mandela relatives.

The more recent arrivals included United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former British prime minister Tony Blair, the Springbok rugby team, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and businessman Patrice Motsepe.

They were dropped off by a series of luxury vehicles.

A notable exception was the minibus from which Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu alighted, along with other members of the international group, The Elders, of which Mandela was a founding member.

Wearing maroon robes, Tutu held hands with former US secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger and former UN chief Kofi Annan.

They were accompanied by former US president Jimmy Carter and former Irish president Mary Robinson as they made their way to a lift.

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived earlier.

South African-born Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, dressed in white, and U2 frontman and philanthropist Bono, wearing red glasses, also made their way into the stadium.

President Jacob Zuma arrived with an entourage, including senior government and ANC officials.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, India's President Pranab Mukherjee and Cuba's President Raul Castro Ruz were also there.

Long-time friends of Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and George Bizos SC, also made their way into the stadium.

South Africa's last apartheid head of state FW De Klerk arrived with his wife Elita Georgiades.

Former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar was in the stands wearing a formal Springbok blazer, with current captain Jean de Villiers. - Sapa

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