President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa to attend the memorial service for the late President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, part of a week of official observances that will culminate in a state funeral a week from Sunday.
South African Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane released new details of the observances and said that the government would work closely with Mandela’s family “to ensure that all events conform to the family’s wishes and are culturally compliant.”
The official events honoring Mandela, who died on Thursday at 95, begin on Sunday, when the government will observe a national day of prayer and reflection “in which South Africans will celebrate the life of Mandela and his legacy in places of worship, homes and communities,” Chabane said.
On Tuesday, the official memorial service for Mandela will be held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, also known as the Soccer City stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup final. This will be attended by members of the public and by the Obamas and a number of other visiting heads of state and government, though Chabane said the list of world leaders that would attend had not yet been finalized. The White House confirmed the Obamas' attendance in an email Saturday evening.
Mandela’s body will lie in state in an open casket at the Union Buildings, the official seat of the South African government, from Wednesday through Friday, with viewing open to “South Africans and selected international visitors and guests,” Chabane said.
Chabane said his remains would be transported daily between a nearby military hospital and the Union Buildings. South Africans wishing to view the late president’s remains will be shuttled from two yet-to-be named locations to the Unions Building.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, Mandela’s body will be moved to the Eastern Cape province, where members of the ruling African National Congress party will bid him farewell. Later, a procession will take place from Mthatha to Qunu, where the Thembu community, of which Mandela was a member, will conduct a traditional ceremony.
On Sunday, Dec. 15, a funeral service and interment ceremony will take place at Mandela’s home and final resting place at Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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First published December 7 2013, 9:10 AM