Large crowds expected for Mandela funeral

Large crowds expected for Mandela funeral

Large crowds expected for Mandela funeral

Written by Staff Writer

08 Dec, 2013 | 7:56 am

Tens of thousands of South Africans are expected to line the streets of Pretoria in the coming days as Nelson Mandela’s body is borne daily to the Union Buildings, the seat of national government, to lie in state.

Mandela’s coffin will travel from Pretoria’s main military hospital and back each day for three days, offering the public perhaps the best opportunity to personally bid farewell to the beloved former president and human rights icon who died Thursday.

As government officials spelled out tight security arrangements, strictly limiting public access to major memorial events, they sought to preempt disappointment by urging South Africans to watch the events on large video screens that will be placed in major locations around the country.

Many foreign dignitaries will attend a memorial service Tuesday at the 90,000-seat soccer stadium in Soweto. Much of the seating is likely to be allocated to VIPs and members of Mandela’s African National Congress, bused in from around South Africa.

A two-mile security cordon will be placed around Qunu, Mandela’s home village, where he is to be buried Dec. 15. Only the state-controlled broadcast network SABC and a government photographer will be allowed to attend on behalf of the media. Members of the public are expected to line the roads again when his body travels from the airport to his final resting place in Qunu.

Nine thousand people are due to attend the state funeral, including heads of state and dignitaries from around the world.

Meanwhile, Mandela’s family spoke Saturday for the first time since his death, describing in a statement their grief at losing a “great man, a pillar of the family,” who remained humble despite his global fame.

President Obama called Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, on Saturday to extend his condolences.

Mandela’s family, deeply sensitive about the intense media interest in his upcoming funeral, is walking a difficult line between the need for privacy to grieve and the sense that Mandela belonged to the world.

The family is concerned about the possibility of photographs circulating of Mandela lying in state, according to a spokeswoman for the Government Communication and Information System, hence the ban on cellphones and cameras at the Union Buildings.

Military doctors Saturday were preparing Mandela’s body, government officials said.

The Mandela family has been criticized by South Africans, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for an unseemly public fight over Mandela’s burial site since he fell ill in June.

Some relatives have also been criticized for cashing in commercially on the Mandela name.

Mantanzima said the family would always seek to emulate Mandela’s values.

The Los Angeles Times

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