News / Africa

World Leaders Head to S. Africa for Mandela Tribute

An image of Nelson Mandela is displayed on a digital screen as workers on scaffolding construct a stage ahead of Mandela's national memorial service at First National Bank (FNB) Stadium, also known as Soccer City, in Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013.
An image of Nelson Mandela is displayed on a digital screen as workers on scaffolding construct a stage ahead of Mandela's national memorial service at First National Bank (FNB) Stadium, also known as Soccer City, in Johannesburg, Dec. 9, 2013.
VOA News
Leaders are traveling to South Africa from around the world for Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who died last week at the age of 95.

U.S. President Barack Obama left Washington Monday morning, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, and former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are traveling separately to Johannesburg, where the main service will be held in the Soccer City stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup.

South Africa said that more than 80 heads of state, royalty and high government officials from throughout the world are expected at the tribute to Mr. Mandela. He became South Africa's first black president in the 1990s after being imprisoned for 27 years for leading the struggle against his country's white apartheid rule.

Foreign Minister Maite Knoana-Mashabane says there has been "unprecedented interest" from world leaders who want to attend the event, which will be held under heavy security.  Mr. Obama is among those expected to speak before an anticipated crowd of 80,000 people.

Nelson Mandela Memorial ObservancesNelson Mandela Memorial Observances
Nelson Mandela Memorial Observances
Nelson Mandela Memorial Observances
British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Cuban President Raul Castro and  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are among the world leaders who have told the South African government they plan to attend the service for Mr. Mandela.

George H.W. Bush is the only living former U.S. president who will not attend the event.  His spokesman said the 89-year-old Mr. Bush is no longer able to travel long distances.   

American talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Irish singer-activist Bono, as well as British billionaire Richard Branson are also expected to attend.

Hundreds of bouquets of flowers have been laid on the street outside Mandela's Johannesburg home. His grandson, Mandla Mandela, sang and danced along with other mourners Monday as he approached the gated home to pay his respects.

Mandela's remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria -- the official seat of the South African government -- on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The memorials and events will culminate in Mandela's burial on December 15 in his boyhood home of Qunu.

  • A young boy tried to squeeze his name onto a Mandela poster outside his home in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Messages of thanks and sadness are written on a giant poster outside Mandela's home in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Mandela fans leave tributes outside his former home in Houghton, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Crowds sing and chant outside Mandela's Houghton home in South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Crowds sing and dance outside Mandela's former home in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Mandela fans pose outside his home in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Mandela posters in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Mandela merchandise is flying off street corners in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Nomalady Zondo says black South Africans are still not economically free and must fight for equal rights.(Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Thabo Tobedi fashioned earrings from keyrings to honor his hero Mandiba who he says was responsible for the social welfare still clothing and feeding many of the nation's black South Africans. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Tourists have been visiting or posing by Mandela's house in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
  • Crowds gather in Soweto, South Africa. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)

Click here for a list of dignitaries scheduled to attend.

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Comment Sorting
by: Jose M Lopez Sierra from: Puerto Rico
December 30, 2013 4:11 AM
Dear Partners,

President Obama said in his speech at Nelson Mandela’s memorial that we should all ask ourselves how well we are applying Nelson Mandela’s lessons.

The facts that the United States government has not liberated Puerto Rico’s political prisoner Oscar Lpez Rivera, and decolonized Puerto Rico prove that President Obama obviously is not applying them at all! How easy it is to find fault in others, and never see our own. Nevertheless, Nelson Mandela has taught us that together we can make miracles happen!


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 10, 2013 3:04 AM
It is surprising that more than 80 countries or regions are going to send delegates to Mandera's mourning ceremony. Royal prince Hirono-miya is chosen to represent Japan for the first time to attend the ceremony for foreign politicians not for royal families. Frankly speaking, Mandera is not familier with Japanese people because it was only once that he visited Japan, adding that racism has not been a major issue in Japan. This is the good chance for the Japanese to learn about Mandera, tata of African people.

by: arnold from: cape town
December 09, 2013 3:17 PM
Why is it that all foreign media especially from western countries when reporting world leaders attending mandela funeral they mention us leaders, british, racist australians but they dont mention african leaders attending. This is racism at its best. They hate africans

by: Geremew Geresu from: ETHIOPIA
December 09, 2013 10:51 AM
We all Ethiopian love and respect the famous former president and anty apartied!

by: Dr. Letch from: USA
December 09, 2013 10:36 AM
The establishment media vampires feel like it is high noon, when anyone mentions the FACT that Mandela was co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe!

by: Gadema Quoquoi from: New York City, USA
December 09, 2013 10:35 AM
As three former US Presidents and President Obama head to South Africa, for Nelson Mandela's Funeral, it is good to note that, Nelson Mandela stood for Freedom Justice, and Economic Equality.

African Nations have gained Political Independence, what African Nations need now, is Economic Independence.

To enabled African Nations to improved the Living Conditions of their People.

by: Jose M Lopez Sierra from: Puerto Rico
December 09, 2013 9:27 AM
Greeting Partners,

President Obama should also reflect on Oscar López Rivera, who is also doing for Puerto Rico what Nelson Mandela did for South Africa.

by: Paul Gesimba from: Nairobi
December 09, 2013 1:21 AM
Mandela was indeed a great man his greatest achievement peace and freedom for South Africa through a new Constitution the most progressive in the World and the economy among the most organised .Probably his mantle should be passed on to Cyril Ramphosa another key architect of the New Constitution .

by: rong li from: sichuan china
December 08, 2013 9:03 AM
all the best for him in the heaven,a great person will never shade in the history, he will be in our mind for now and for ever, he has been fighting for freedom,and he lost freedom for some time of his life, but he never stop, we love him! all the best foe him and his families and his country!
In Response

by: Mae Kim from: South Africa
December 08, 2013 11:54 AM
Yes, and ignore the fact that Mandela was not what the media brainwashes people into thinking. Expect Obama to use your hard-earned confiscated tax dollars to pay for an expensive trip to South Africa where he will attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

The chief teleprompter reader for the banks and corporations that control the government has already ordered flags be flown at half mast. This 17th century ritual is usually reserved for members of U.S. government officialdom, but Mandela is a special case.

Nelson Mandela stands atop a hallowed pedestal in the pantheon of political correctness. His struggle against the scourge of apartheid – government sanctified racism – was fashioned into a human rights struggle by the establishment and its propaganda media. The distorted image of Saint Mandela has been dutifully scrubbed of its dark side. There is no room for truth or historical fact as the tribute to Saint Mandela unfolds and will continue to do so well into next week and beyond.

Here’s what you won’t hear. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. His Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress, targeted civilians.

On May 20, 1983, Umkhonto we Sizwe (aka “Spear of the Nation”) set off a car bomb near the Nedbank Square building on Church Street in the South African capital of Pretoria. The bomb was timed to go off at the height of rush hour. The attack killed 19 people and wounded 217.

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