Ten days of national mourning for the father of the Rainbow Nation

South African president Jacob Zuma promises a fitting farewell for ‘outstanding son of our country’

People comfort each other outside the residence of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg yesterday. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

People comfort each other outside the residence of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg yesterday. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

 


Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest in his home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province on Sunday, December 15th, following 10 days of national mourning that will involve numerous official events.

South African president Jacob Zuma, who spent time in jail with Mr Mandela on Robben Island, said yesterday that the next 10 days should represent a fitting send-off for a man of Mr Mandela’s stature.

“We should all work together to organise the most befitting funeral for this outstanding son of our country and the father of our young nation,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.


Prayer and reflection
Tomorrow would be a national day of prayer and reflection, he said. This will be followed by an official memorial service that will be held on December 10th at FNB stadium in Johannesburg that will be attended by dignitaries from around the world.

Mr Mandela has already been removed from his Houghton home and taken to a military hospital in Pretoria where his remains will rest until December 11th. Between that date and December 13th, Mr Mandela’s remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria.

“[This is] where he served as the first president of this young democracy,” Mr Zuma said, “During these days, official memorial services will be held in all provinces and regions.”

Dignitaries from around the world are expected to pour into South Africa over the coming week, with US president Barack Obama already confirming he will travel to participate in memorial events for a man he says inspired his political career.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” Mr Obama said yesterday. “My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.”

Well-known personalities who were also close to the statesman, from Oprah Winfrey to Bill and Hillary Clinton, are also expected to attend. As are African leaders from across the continent, including Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

Next weekend his body will be flown to the Eastern Cape province, the hilly rural area where he was born and grew up, where he will be buried in a private ceremony in Qunu, next to the remains of his family, including his three deceased children.

Yesterday Mr Zuma thanked all South Africans for “the dignified manner in which they have respected and responded to the loss of this monumental icon”.

“[Mandela was] a symbol of reconciliation, unity, love, human rights and justice in our country and in the world,” Mr Zuma said.