Mourning for Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and Nobel peace laureate, will conclude with a state funeral on Sunday.
A rehearsal for the funeral got underway in Mandela’s ancestral village of Qunu on Friday as preparations are made to put him in his final resting place. The funeral will be live streamed on CityNews.ca beginning at 2 a.m. on Sunday,
The week of mourning since his death at the age of 95 on Dec. 5 has seen an unrivalled outpouring of emotion for the statesman, who was honoured by a host of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, at a memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The South African government said more than 100,000 people paid their respects to Mandela at the government Union Buildings in Pretoria during the three days his body laid in state.
Mandela’s body will be flown Saturday to the Eastern Cape province from an air force base in Pretoria where the ruling party will bid him farewell.
On arrival at Mthatha airport, a military contingent will perform the ceremonial removal of the casket from the aircraft.
The coffin, which will be draped with the national flag, will be greeted by a military honour guard. It will then be placed on a gun carriage. Mandela’s family will follow the carriage in cars.
Thousands of people are expected to line the streets as the carriage is taken to Qunu.
At Qunu, the military will formally pass responsibility for Mandela’s remains to his family, where the Thembu community will conduct a traditional ceremony. The country’s flag on the coffin will be replaced with a traditional Xhosa blanket.
Sunday’s state funeral at Qunu will be a smaller affair focusing on the family, but dignitaries, including Britain’s Prince Charles, Bill Clinton and his family and Oprah Winfrey, and a small group of African and Caribbean leaders, are expected to attend.
The Qunu event will combine military pomp with traditional burial rituals of Mandela’s Xhosa clan.
The military will again be charged with draping the coffin. A national salute will be performed and the national anthem will be played.
At the conclusion of the funeral, Mandela will be buried at the family farm in Qunu where he grew up.