Nelson Mandela dies: South Africa celebrates statesman’s life ahead of national week of mourning

Updated 7 December 2013, 8:35 AEST

By Africa correspondent Ginny Stein, wires

South Africans have been celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, as the country prepares for a national week of mourning.

Crowds gathered in Johannesburg to mourn the death of former Nelson Mandela. (Credit: AFP)

South Africans have been celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, as the country prepares for a national week of mourning.

Thousands of people have gathered in front of the former president’s Johannesburg home where a candle-lit vigil is being held.

South Africans have paid tribute to Mandela in song and in quiet reflection across the country.

President Jacob Zuma, who announced Mandela’s death on national TV on Thursday night (local time), has outlined plans for a national week of mourning in honour of the statesman.

Mr Zuma has declared Sunday as an official day of prayer and a service of national mourning is being held on Tuesday.

The service will be held at the stadium which hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Each seat in the 90,000 stadium is expected to be filled.

Mandela’s body will lie in state in the administrative capital Pretoria from Tuesday until Friday next week.

A state funeral will be held on December 15, just days before South Africa is due to commemorate its National Day of Reconciliation.

Mandela, who died at the age of 95, will be buried in a ceremony in his ancestral village of Qunu next Sunday.

Both of South Africa’s houses of parliament have been recalled for a special sitting on Monday to pay tribute to Mandela’s legacy.

Tributes flow around the world

South African president Jacob Zuma says the outpouring of love for Mandela, from home and abroad, has been unprecedented.

Yesterday world leaders including US president Barack Obama and British prime minister David CameronĀ paid tribute to revered anti-apartheid icon.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Mandela was “arguably one of the great figures of the last century”.

The White House has announced that US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will travel to South Africa next week to join the memorial services.

The UN general assembly in New York held a minute’s silence to honour one of the world’s most respected statesmen.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has read out a statement from Pope Francis on Mandela’s passing.

“I pray that the late president’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations,” he said.

Meanwhile former British prime minister Tony Blair told CNN that Mandela represented a stand against bigotry and racism.

“He just represented a completely new era of equality between people of different races and colours and a sense of enormous possibility for the future,” he said.

“I think for those of us who knew him, he was an inspiration as a leader, he was also, by the way, an extremely warm, funny compassionate interesting human being.”

Mr Zuma says the flood of tributes from around the world highlights the exceptional calibre of Mandela’s leadership.

“We will spend the week mourning his passing,” he said.

“We’ll also be spending it celebrating a life well-lived, a life that we must all emulate for the betterment of our country and Africa.”

Nelson Mandela | Life and times

  • Obituary: Read about the life of one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century.
  • Photo gallery: Look back on Nelson Mandela’s life in pictures.
  • Video: Sally Sara looks back on Mandela’s life and achievements.
  • From Mandela’s desk: Explore a gallery of Mandela’s own writings.
  • Timeline: View key dates in Mr Mandela’s life.
  • As it happened: Look back at our coverage as the world paid tribute to Mr Mandela.


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