Mandela’s memorial service to be held on December 10

President Jacob Zuma has announced the funeral plans for Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5.

The official memorial service for the departed icon will be held on December 10 at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday afternoon. 

Speaking to a number of journalists at the SABC, Zuma gave a short tribute to the country's first elected black president who died at 8.50pm on Thursday after a long health struggle, at the age of 95. 

His body will lie in state from December 11 to 13, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Zuma said, adding that the buildings are "where he served as the first president".

"During these days, official memorial services will also be held in all provinces and regions," he said. 

Zuma said Mandela would have a state funeral and would finally be laid to rest on December 15 in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape. 

Official arrangements
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane later said that more details about official arrangements, including those for visiting foreign dignitaries, would be clarified at a later stage.  

A tired and wan Zuma, dressed in a blue striped shirt and grey blazer, sat on the stage before a banner in the ANC's yellow and green colours' bidding "hamba kahle" (go well) to Madiba. 

The stage was earlier festooned with election campaign material for the ANC, but these were covered by a neutral government communications banner for the announcement. 

Zuma looked far more drawn than he appeared in his speech announcing Mandela's death broadcast on television on Thursday, where he spoke simply, clearly and powerfully in what some commentators say was one of his best speaking moments. 

On Friday afternoon, he spoke slowly and quietly. 

"We sincerely thank all South Africans for the dignified manner in which they have respected and responded to the monumental loss of this international icon, who was a symbol of reconciliation, unity, love, human rights and justice in our country and the world," he said. 

He said Sunday December 8 would be reserved as a national day of prayer and reflection for Mandela.

'We should all work together'
"We should all work together to organise the most befitting funeral for this outstanding son of our country and the father of our young nation," he said. "We call upon all our people to gather in halls, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and in their homes to pray and hold prayer services and meditation reflecting on the life of Madiba and his contribution to our country and the world."

Zuma had earlier visited Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, where the former president passed away, to pay his respects to the Mandela family. 

He said the number of tributes pouring in from the international community was a testament to Mandela's calibre of leadership.

"We'll always love Madiba for teaching us that it is possible to overcome hatred and anger in order to build a new nation and a new society," he finished. "We spend the week mourning his passing. We'll also spend it celebrating a life well lived, a life that we must all emulate for the betterment of our country and Africa. 

"Long live Madiba."

Meanwhile, South African Airways (SAA) will provide flights for mourners wishing to attend Mandela's funeral in Qunu, the airline said on Friday.

"After consultation with the South African government, SAA has put a special air transport service in place in order to facilitate the movement of mourners to the Eastern Cape … [for] the funeral of former president Mandela," spokesperson Tlali Tlali said in a statement.

He said the service would be available to those invited to the funeral and would also cover their return journeys. 

Tlali said that the ferrying of mourners would neither replace nor disrupt its normal flights to the Eastern Cape. "Passengers travelling on normal schedules between Johannesburg and the two Eastern Cape destinations SAA operates to, will continue to be offered the same services."

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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