SA prepares for Madiba farewell
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Johannesburg - As the country prepared to host a memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela, all hotels in Gauteng were placed on an immediate “block out”.
“As a result, very little accommodation will be available in Johannesburg and Pretoria,” said Eric Sakawsky, general manager of Corporate Traveller, a division of Flight Centre.
“We've been notified that due to various government and consulate arrangements, all hotels in Gauteng will be on a block out from December 6 to 25.”
He said this should not affect bookings already confirmed and paid for.
All rental car companies nationally, and in particular Gauteng, were also on a block out, effective immediately, said Sakawsky.
Mandela died at his Houghton, Johannesburg, home on Thursday at the age of 95.
A massive memorial service will be held at the FNB stadium in Soweto on Tuesday. From December 11 to 13 his remains will lie in state at the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he served as the first president of a democratic South Africa.
Mandela will honoured with a state funeral next Sunday in the village of Qunu, in his home province, the Eastern Cape.
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are among the many dignitaries due to travel to South Africa to pay their respects to Mandela. Obama would be travelling with former first couple George and Laura Bush. Former US president Bill Clinton, who was in office when Mandela came into office, would also be making the trip with his family.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Obamas would participate in memorial events, but declined to provide further details.
Agence France-Presse reported that Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff would also be among the guests.
Meanwhile, groups of people that were singing and dancing outside Mandela's Johannesburg homes took a breather in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Candles flickered among the hundreds of flowers on the pavement outside his home in Houghton. The large crowds who braved the cold Highveld night air to gather at Mandela's old home in Vilakazi street in Soweto, south of Johannesburg, had also thinned by around 3am.
Only a few people remained as the first birds heralded a new day.
“Ga re tsamae re robala mo (We are not going anywhere, we are sleeping here),” said Pauline Moja.
The African National Congress, the party which galvanised support to oust the apartheid government and deliver Mandela as the country's first democratically elected and black president, dedicated its website to Mandela, allowing people worldwide to leave messages of support.
The website was no longer in its signature yellow, green, and black colours, and contained no information about the party itself. It was solely dedicated to Madiba, Mandela's clan name, with a picture of him on its homepage.
There was also a gallery of Mandela's photographs, speeches, statements and letters he had written, a biography, and his quotes.
Condolence books would be left at centres around Johannesburg for the public to write their messages. Scores of messages from around the world were left on the website. - Sapa