91 world leaders to honour Mandela

Published: 10 December, 2013 00:01 IST | Agencies |

More than 90 heads of state are on their way to South Africa for what is expected to be the largest gathering of world leaders in Africa's history.

It’s a clear sign of what kind of impact Nelson Mandela left on the world. Mandela, the activist who spent 27 years in prison before becoming his country’s first black president, died on Thursday at the age of 95.

Mourning for their hero: South Africans pay their respects to Nelson Mandela at Mandela Square in Sandton City in Johannesburg. Preparations have begun for the funeral, which is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of his followers and admirers. Pic/AFP

Among the world figures will be Prince Charles, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and George Bush. Three previous British prime ministers -- Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown -- will join David Cameron at the memorial ceremony. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and singer-activist Bono, as well as British billionaire Richard Branson are expected to attend.

“The whole world is coming to South Africa,” said Clayson Monyela, the country’s head of public diplomacy. “I don’t think that has ever happened before.” But some of the arrangements appeared to be chaotic, with long delays, security hold-ups and traffic problems looking inevitable. Demand for tickets at the memorial service at the World Cup stadium in Pretoria far exceeded the 95,000 seats, and extra venues were being arranged.

Who’s not coming
Notable absentees include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who cited high travel and security costs, and the DalaiLama, who since 2009 has twice been denied a visa for SouthAfrica.  

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