Mandela funeral one of biggest gatherings of heads of states

With more than 70 heads of state confirmed to arrive in South Africa this week to attend the memorial service and funeral of the late Nelson Mandela, the former president's funeral could surpass in numbers what was considered to have been the biggest gathering of heads of state outside of the United Nations – the funeral of Pope John Paul II. 

Held on April 8 2005, John Paul's funeral brought together at least 70 heads of state, 14 leaders of other religions, four kings and five queens. Over four million people lined the streets of Rome to mourn the leader of the Catholic Church. 

On Sunday, the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco)? confirmed that 70 sitting heads of state will attend either the memorial service or the funeral of Mandela. The event will see former leaders sitting alongside their countries' incumbent leaders. 

Embassies open
All 126 embassies were open on Sunday to process the visas of international guests, Dirco said at the weekend

Among the confirmed heads of state, according to Dirco, are US President Barack Obama and three former presidents of that country. French President François Hollande? and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as the leaders of Venezuela, Spain and Singapore are among the confirmed.

Prince Charles will reportedly represent Buckingham Palace at the funeral.?

By Sunday, 13 African heads of state had confirmed their attendance. 

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace; Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, have confirmed their attendance. 

Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Sunday the fact that international leaders were making their way to South Africa at such short notice "reflects the special place [former] president Mandela holds in the hearts of people around the globe".

She said the country was "touched" by the mourning periods declared by other countries.

'Periods of mourning'
"We are touched by the fact that many countries have declared periods of mourning, ordered that flags be flown at half-mast and draped or lit landmarks in the colours of the South African flag. We truly appreciate these gestures," she said.

"We appreciate the willingness showed by a broad range of eminent persons to come to South Africa to join us personally at this time of mourning, reflection and celebration of Nelson Mandela's life and legacy.

"International and regional organisations from the United Nations and European Commission to the African Union, for example, have also confirmed attendance," she said. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


The recovered remain cautious

People who have survived Covid-19 are not going through life carefree. They are still taking all the preventative measures

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

Senwes launches Agri Value Chain Food Umbrella

South African farmers can now help to feed the needy by donating part of their bumper maize crop to delivery number 418668

Ethics and internal financial controls add value to the public sector

National treasury is rolling out accounting technician training programmes to upskill those who work in its finance units in public sector accounting principles

Lessons from South Korea for Africa’s development

'Leaders can push people through, through their vision and inspiration, based on their exemplary actions'

Old Mutual announces digital AGM

An ambitious plan to create Africa’s biggest digital classroom is intended to address one of the continent’s biggest challenges — access to education

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday