Tens of thousands to attend Mandela's funeral

16:39, Dec 10 2013
Nelson Mandela's death
STREET SYMPATHY: Mourners react with song and dance on the street in Soweto where Mandela once lived.
Nelson Mandela's death
CANDLE LIGHT: South Africans have been laying tributes to Mandela since his death this month.
Desmond Tutu
MEMORIAL SERVICE: Former Archbishop of Cape Town and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu held a mass at Cape Town's Anglican St George's Cathedral for Mandela.
Nelson Mandela's death
BIG BANNER: In France, a huge banner featuring Mandela's face was hung from the foreign affairs ministry.
Nelson Mandela's death
PARLIAMENT SQUARE: In London, in the shadow of Big Ben, floral tributes were laid at the base of Mandela's statue.
Nelson Mandela's death
YOUNG TRIBUTES: A prayer ceremony was held at a school in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: People start singing as they arrive for a mass memorial for Nelson Mandela at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: The 95,000-seat stadium will host the main ceremony.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: People start singing as they arrive for a mass memorial for Nelson Mandela at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
Nelson Mandela memorial
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE: US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are escorted off the tarmac as they arrive in South Africa to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: A woman in the crowd takes a moment for contemplation.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: Crowds have filled a stadium in Johannesburg to farewell former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: British Prime Minister David Cameron was among world leaders to attend.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: Young and old came to pay their respects.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
LIFE CELEBRATION: Unusual adornments were worn by some.
Nelson Mandela's death
FORMER LEADER: Ex-South African president FW de Klerk takes his seat in the stadium.
Nelson Mandela's death
EX-WIFE: Winnie Mandela, ex-wife of Mandela, is seen in this still image from the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation.
Nelson Mandela's death
MEMORIAL PRESENCE: Graca Machel, Mandela's widow, was present at the stadium.
Nelson Mandela's death
CURRENT LEADER: South African President Jacob Zuma waves as he arrives at the stadium. He was later booed by the crowd.
Nelson Mandela
A mourner pumps his fist during the Nelson Mandela memorial in Soweto.
Nelson Mandela
Mourners cover up with umbrellas as US President Barack Obama delivers his eulogy.
Jacob Zuma
Under-fire South African President Jacob Zuma was booed and jeered before his speech.
Barack Obama
An image of Nelson Mandela shows on the big screen as US President Barack Obama speaks.
Mourners at Mandela memorial
Attendees sing and dance at Nelson Mandela's memorial.
Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama delivers his eulogy.
Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama greets Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel.
Nelson Mandela memorial
The crowds gather at Soccer City stadium for Nelson Mandela's memorial.
Nelson Mandela memorial
J. Nico Scholten, from Amsterdam, holds up a photo of his meeting with Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela memorial
A child draped in a South African flag at Soccer City stadium for Nelson Mandela's memorial.
Mourners at Mandela memorial
Elizabeth Alexander was on holiday from Sydney when Mandela died. She walked in the rain to get to the stadium.
Mourners at Mandela memorial
Aucklander Ray Vantrhaar was back home in South Africa for the funeral of his father.
Nelson Mandela's coffin in state
GLASS COFFIN: Nelson Mandela is lying in state for mourners to pay respects.
Nelson Mandela's death
SOMBRE ARRIVAL: Personnel carry the coffin on Nelson Mandela into Union Buildings, Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
Thousands of South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
Nelson Mandela memorial
Thousands of South Africans wait in line to pay respects to Nelson Mandela's body in Pretoria.
FW de Klerk
Former South African president FW de Klerk walks away with wife Elita after paying respects to Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela
A flame burns near a portrait of Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu.

They camped overnight in the rain, anxious not to miss the chance say goodbye to their beloved Madiba.

Tens of thousands of mourners were expected to flood into the FNB stadium overnight (NZ time) to farewell Nelson Mandela.

They will be joined for a few hours by one king, 53 presidents and 13 prime ministers, including John Key.

Dignitaries have not gathered in such number since the funeral of Pope John II.

Behind bulletproof screens, President Barack Obama, and four of his predecessors, will stand shoulder to shoulder with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Celebrities including Naomi Campbell, Oprah Winfrey and Annie Lennox will also attend.

Advertisement

Strict protocol dictates the VIPs will be seated alphabetically by country, to ensure no embarrassing encounters.

Cameron will be separated from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Obama from Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz and Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro.

Japan and China will also be kept apart amid simmering tension in the region. One South African paper dubbed the arrangements "eggshell diplomacy".

Former activist and government minister Jay Naidoo, who campaigned for Mandela's release, was one of the earliest arrivals to the stadium.

Sheltering from the drizzle in the stands with his wife, Lucie Page, and their son, Kami Naidoo-Page, he said he was there with a "mixture of joy and sorrow".

"The heavens are crying," he said of the weather.

He was there to pay tribute to "an extraordinary man who brought our country to an extraordinary place."

The service would be "a momentous day in which we close a circle and end an era".

He added: "Today we are here, across the world, to remember a man who stood for human dignity and social justice."

As the stadium began filling up it echoed with singing, dancing, chanting and noisy blasts from vuvuzelas.

Many mourners are draped in flags bearing the face of "Tata".

South African President Jacob Zuma will deliver the keynote address. General Thanduxolo Mandela will speak on behalf of the family and Mandela's friend, Andrew Mlangeni, who served time with him in Robben Island prison, will share his memories.

The mood is expected to be a mix of sombre reflection and celebration of the former president's 95 years.

A gloomy day dawned over the calabash-shaped stadium, uncharacteristically cold and wet for the Johannesburg summer.

The reddish-brown venue will be familiar to football fans as the venue for the Fifa World Cup final in 2010, which was also Mandela's last public appearance.

Umbrellas were banned for security reasons, but the wet weather was not expected to deter mourners.

The Government laid on free transport for mourners and closed many surrounding roads. Chaotic scenes were expected as the crowds amassed.

More than 2000 journalists and crew were accredited for the service and events later this week, with some queuing up to eight hours to get their hands on the coveted passes.

Secret service and intelligence agents had earlier prowled the venue and surrounding areas, and a no-fly zone was in place, with fighter jets patrolling the skies as world leaders jetted in.

Also expected to be present for the four-hour service were singer Peter Gabriel and British tycoon Richard Branson, as well as former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Key will be joined by Labour leader David Cunliffe, but was forced to leave the rest of his five-person delegation back at the hotel after being told numbers were restricted.

From tomorrow Mandela's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, ahead of the funeral in his home town of Qunu, on Sunday.

Fairfax Media