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. 

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

A distress signal from Soweto in 1977

A Window on Soweto by Joyce Sikakane-Rankin provided insight during apartheid censorship

South Africa must revisit and refresh its idea of itself

Covid has propelled citizens into feelings of a new shared identity in which the historical force of ‘whiteness’ is fading into irrelevance

Dance with the ‘devil’: Why SA has fought off the IMF for so long

The ANC has, until now, always rejected going to the International Monetary Fund, which underscores how bad our economic situation is

‘Prisoner 913’: The long, zigzagging path to Mandela’s release

A new book draws on the secret archive of NP justice minister Kobie Coetsee to paint a detailed picture of the lead-up to Nelson Mandela’s release. Shaun de Waal spoke to co-author Riaan de Villiers

Cameroon is a ship without a captain

Ahead of planned protests, Cameroon’s main opposition leader argues that change is more urgent than ever

Yes, Cote D’Ivoire’s president is running for a third term. But this time it’s different

COMMENT: A senior Ivorian government official argues that President Alassane Ouattara is within his rights to run again

Subscribers only

FNB dragged into bribery claims

Allegations of bribery against the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, thrown up in a separate court case

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

More top stories

ConCourt asked to rule that Zuma must testify for 10...

It is Zondo's legal end game and will leave the former president, his supporters and those implicated in state capture to increasingly play fast and loose at imputing political motive to the commission

Carlos on Oozymandias’ goodbye grift

"Look on my works ye Mighty, and gimme 50 bucks!"

This is how the SIU catches crooks

Athandiwe Saba talked to the Special Investigating Unit’s Andy Mothibi about its caseload, including 1 000 Covid contracts

Richard Calland: Not much has shuffled in the political pack

Stocktake at the end of a momentous year shows that the ruling party holds all the cards but has little room for manoeuvre

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…