Radisson Blu tells guests to leave for VIPs

Chris Spillane

In the run-up to Nelson Mandela's memorial service, the luxury hotel has cancelled exisiting bookings in order to accomodate dignitaries.

Dignitaries such as Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan will travel to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral. (AFP)

Luxury hotels in Johannesburg's Sandton neighbourhood have asked guests to vacate their rooms for foreign dignitaries attending Nelson Mandela's funeral and memorial service.

The Radisson Blu hotel, located opposite the Gautrain station in the city's commercial center, wrote to "valued clients" to tell them their booking will be cancelled, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg News.

"We will need to release your booking with us," the hotelier said in a letter to customers. "There is no accommodation available in the area due to all the foreign dignitaries that will occupy the various properties and security in the area will not allow for corporate travel."

Current and former presidents of the US, France and Brazil will fly to South Africa to pay tribute to Mandela, the country's first democratically elected president who died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5.

South Africa will expand Tuesday's memorial service to cater for at least 200 000 people, with three additional sports facilities screening the service taking place at the city's FNB Stadium.

The UK's Prince Charles will attend Mandela’s funeral, while 13 heads of African countries, including Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, are making the journey.

About 9 000 mourners are expected to attend Mandela’s December 15 funeral in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, according to the government.

The Michelangelo, a 242-room five-star hotel in Sandton owned by Legacy Hotels and Resorts, is fully booked Monday and Tuesday, reservations manager Elmarie Fritz said in a phone interview. "We have sold out rooms that we had. There is quite a number of requests," she said. – Bloomberg

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