'Distinguished' NZ politicians head to Mandela service

05:35, Dec 08 2013
Nelson Mandela
PAYING RESPECTS: People gather to pay their respects at the statue of former South African president Nelson Mandela at South Bank in London.

Prime Minister John Key is to lead a delegation of past and present New Zealand leaders to attend the memorial service of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Mandela passed away on Friday at the age of 95.

Key announced this morning he would leave tomorrow and would be accompanied by Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples, Labour leader David Cunliffe, former Prime Minister Jim Bolger and former Foreign Minister and Secretary‑General of the Commonwealth, Sir Don McKinnon.

Mandela
Nelson Mandela

“This distinguished delegation reflects the mana of Mr Mandela, and the highest regard in which New Zealand held him,” Key said.

Key said Mandela was a “global icon for freedom who united South Africans following apartheid”.

“Madiba’s achievements demonstrate what can be attained through forgiveness and reconciliation. His vision for

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South Africa was one of freedom and equality. It remains an inspiration to the world.”

He emphasised New Zealand’s close friendship with South Africa, forged through sport and personal ties and built on the foundation of the Commonwealth.

An official memorial service will be held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday December 10.

Mandela's body will then lie in state at South Africa's seat of government in Pretoria before a private burial in Qunu on December 15.

The New Zealand delegation will leave tomorrow.

Fairfax Media