*Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday, Dec. 15 at his rural home in Qunu, and a memorial service in a Johannesburg stadium will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 10, President Jacob Zuma announced today.
Mandela’s body will lie in state at government buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday, Dec. 11, until the burial, and this coming Sunday, Dec. 8, will be a national day of prayer and reflection.
South African Airways said it will provide chartered air transport for invited mourners to Mandela’s funeral in his rural hometown in Eastern Cape province.
Hours after Mandela’s death Thursday night, a black SUV-type vehicle containing his coffin, draped in South Africa’s flag, pulled away from Mandela’s home after midnight, escorted by military motorcycle outriders, to take the body to a military morgue in Pretoria, the capital.
Preparing for larger crowds in the coming days, portable toilets were delivered. Also expecting an influx of mourners, a man sold flags and paraphernalia of Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, or ANC.
In a church service in Cape Town, retired archbishop Desmond Tutu and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate said Mandela would want South Africans themselves to be his “memorial” by adhering to the values of unity and democracy that he embodied.
“All of us here in many ways amazed the world, a world that was expecting us to be devastated by a racial conflagration,” Tutu said, recalling how Mandela helped unite South Africa as it dismantled apartheid, the cruel system of white minority rule, and prepared for all-race elections in 1994. In those elections, Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, became South Africa’s first black president.
“God, thank you for the gift of Madiba,” said Tutu in his closing his prayer, using Mandela’s clan name.
In Mandela’s hometown of Qunu in the wide-open spaces of the Eastern Cape province, relatives consoled each other as they mourned the death of South Africa’s most famous citizen.
Mandela was a “very human person” with a sense of humor who took interest in people around him, said F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid-era president. The two men negotiated the end of apartheid, finding common cause in often tense circumstances, and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Summarizing Mandela’s legacy, de Klerk paraphrased Mandela’s own words on eNCA television: “Never and never again should there be in South Africa the suppression of anyone by another.”
Mourners also gathered outside Mandela’s former home on Vilakazi Street in the city’s black township of Soweto. Many were singing and dancing as they celebrated Mandela’s life.
The liberation struggle icon’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, said he is strengthened by the knowledge that his grandfather is finally at rest.
“All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family,” Mandla Mandela said in a statement. “The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people.”
“We in the family recognize that Madiba belongs not only to us but to the entire world. The messages we have received since last night have heartened and overwhelmed us,” the grandson said.