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.
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)
for a list of dignitaries scheduled to attend.