Maori king may attend Mandela funeral
A clearance from doctors is all that is stopping the Maori king, Tuheitia, from attending the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
In 1995, Mandela was escorted on to Turangawaewae Marae by former Maori affairs minister Koro Wetere and despite his health concerns, Tuheitia wanted to honour the relationship forged between the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu and the former South African president.
In September, Tuheitia had minor surgery related to diabetes and took a sabbatical from duties to attend to his health. He was not expected back until next year.
South African high commissioner Ntombizodwa Msuthukazi Lallie attended a Matariki dinner in June and has been working to clear the path for the king to attend the service.
A spokesmanfor the king said arrangements have been made and they were waiting on a final call from the high commissioner and approval from Tuheitia's medical staff. There were concerns for the king's health but they expected to know last night if he would be granted clearance to travel.
King Tuheitia, his wife Atawhai Paki and the king's counsel Sir John Goulter would attend the memorial service in South Africa where the Rainbow Nation entered a week of mourning after Mr Mandela died on Friday (NZ time) after a long battle with ill health.
Prime Minister John Key chose an official delegation of five past and present politicians to represent New Zealand at the memorial service this week.
They include Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, Labour leader David Cunliffe, former prime minister Jim Bolger and former foreign minister Sir Don McKinnon.
A memorial service to pay homage to Mr Mandela will be held at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia and will be open to all to attend.
The service at the marae will be on Friday, December 13, from 4pm.