The funeral of former President Nelson Mandela looks set to be the biggest event held in South Africa. More than one hundred heads of state are expected to attend. This is a noticeably higher number than those who attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. It has been reported that the royal family in Buckingham Palace will be represented by the heir to the throne, Prince Charles. International celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bono have also confirmed their attendance with the South African authorities.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will be accompanied by his wife Grace. Other African heads of state who intend to represent the millions in their own countries who were touched by the legend of Mandela include the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Namibian, Mozambican, Congolese and Angolan presidents are also expected to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
However, it appears as if the presidency might have some logistical concerns. According to media reports, Collins Chabane, Minister in the Presidency, said that it may not be advisable for all the heads of state to attend the funeral at the Mandela homestead in Qunu. He offered that no dignitaries “will be prevented from attending” but perhaps it would better if they only attended the official memorial service at the FNB Stadium due to “the size and the scale of the operation and the size of the delegation and the limited infrastructure in the area” of Qunu.
It is not yet clear if the likes of President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former President George Bush will pay Chabane’s advice any attention. The Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller, Palestinian State President Mahmoud Abbas and Chinese Vice President are among those who will be attending Madiba’s funeral.
Royal houses from around the world have also sent delegates to pay their respects on behalf of their nations. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia His Royal Highness Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and the Norweigan Crown Prince His Royal Highness Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud will be in South Africa for the funeral.
For now, all roads lead to FNB Stadium and thousands of people have braved the wet Johannesburg weather to make sure that they make it inside the stadium before the memorial service of the much-loved and appreciated Nelson Mandela begins.