South Africa Announces Weeklong Memorial to Mourn Mandela

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 7 2013 4:59 PM

South Africa Announces Weeklong Memorial to Mourn Mandela

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People pay tribute to Nelson Mandela at a wall of flowers laid by mourners outside his home in Houghton, Johannesburg

Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

As South Africans continue to flock to Nelson Mandela’s home to pay tribute to the late anti-apartheid leader, the government outlined a weeklong series of events that will culminate with the funeral and burial of the anti-apartheid leader on Dec. 15 in his home village of Qunu, reports the Wall Street Journal. Mandela’s family issued the first statement since his death: “The pillar of the royal Mandela family is no more with us physically, but his spirit is still with us.” The family went on: “We have lost a great man, a son of the soil whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst — a caring family leader who made time for all and on that score we will miss him dearly.”

President Obama and First Lady will be travelling to South Africa this week “to participate in memorial events,” the White House said, without specifying whether they would attend the Dec. 15 state funeral. Obama’s two immediate predecessors and their wives will travel with Obama on Air Force One, reports the New York Times. Although many South Africans are already paying their respects in diverse ways, the week of mourning begins Sunday with a national day of prayer, followed by an official memorial service at a Johannesburg 90,000-seat stadium on Tuesday.  "We will spend the week mourning his passing. We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived," South African President Jacob Zuma said.

Starting Tuesday, people will be able to view Mandela’s body lying in state in an open casket for three days in Pretoria. The casket will be transported daily and the government is encouraging mourners to line the route “and form a public guard of honor,” details Reuters. "This will give ordinary people and the public an opportunity to celebrate Madiba's life," Collins Chabane, a member of Zuma’s cabinet, said.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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