Global leaders to pay homage to Mandela
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will travelto South Africa next week to pay their last respects to anti-apartheid icon and South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela.
They will be joined by former US president George W Bush and his wife Laura Bush and former president Bill Clinton and his wife, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. According to the White House, the Americans will “pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and participate in memorial events” honouring the passing of the anti-apartheid leader.
Earlier, Obama paid tributes to Mandela saying, “They’re grieving the loss of a man, a moral giant who embodied dignity, courage and hope, and sought to bring about justice not only in South Africa, but I think to inspire millions around the world.” Obama could never meet Mandela face-to-face. When he visited South Africa in June, the anti-apartheid icon was hospitalised with a recurring lung infection. Obama and his family visited the jail cell on Robben Island where Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in captivity during South Africa’s apartheid era.
Meanwhile, crowds gathered outside Mandela’s old home in Soweto, Johannesburg, to celebrate his life through song and dance. The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Centre of Memory has opened its doors to allow the public to reflect on his life and times, South Africa’s government news agency SA News reported. The centre will be open till Dec 9 as a place for people to gather in unity, chief executive of the foundation, Sello Hatang said.
“With open arms, we welcome you into our home to pay yourrespects and share your tributes and contributions to recognising this great statesman,” Hatang said. Mandela, who was the first black president of South Africa, died Thursday at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95. South African President Jacob Zuma said the late statesman will be laid to rest at his home in Qunu in the southern province of Eastern Cape. The national mourning will last for 10 days before the funeral.