Five NZers attend Mandela event

Last updated 23:00 10/12/2013

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All five members of the official New Zealand delegation to a memorial service for former South African leader Nelson Mandela have attended the event - despite earlier moves to limit numbers.

As the event, in a stadium in Johannesburg, got under way, Prime Minister John Key, Labour leader David Cunliffe, former prime minister Jim Bolger, former Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples all took their seats.

Just hours earlier, Key had selected Cunliffe as his sole companion after being told that the delegation had to be trimmed to just two people.

All five had flown to South Africa to represent New Zealand at taxpayer expense.

The trip has not been without controversy - there has been an outcry over Key not taking anti-Springbok tour campaigner John Minto as part of the official delegation.

Taxpayers are funding the trip at a cost of $95,000.

Earlier a spokeswoman for Key confirmed they found out about the restrictions on delegation size after the full group landed in South Africa.

The New Zealanders are among leaders from around the world gathering to honour Mandela.

South African officials said US President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will  speak at the mass memorial service.

Cuban leader Raul Castro, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and Britain's David Cameron would also join what is set to be one of the biggest meetings of global dignitaries in recent history at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium, the foreign ministry said.

The 95,000-seat stadium in Soweto, the township that was at the heart of the anti-apartheid struggle, is hosting the main memorial ceremony for Mandela, who died on Friday aged 95.

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- Fairfax Media

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