Nelson Mandela to have 10-day state funeral

Elaborate funeral plans have been set in motion in South Africa following the death of the country’s revered first black president Nelson Mandela.

The memorial, expected to last ten days, will be an unparalleled event in South Africa’s history, drawing a plethora of foreign dignitaries of every stripe, royals and a smattering of celebrities.

South African President Jacob Zuma ordered the nation's flags to be flown at half-mast beginning today and to remain that way until after Mandela's funeral, which he announced would be held next Sunday.

Desmond Tutu, a long-time friend of Mr Mandela and former archbishop of Cape Town is expected to hold the service, which will be attended by all living US presidents, past and present.

Several celebrities who had personal ties to the late great leader, such as Oprah Winfrey and U2 frontman Bono, are also expected to attend the service.

Preparations for funeral are expected to bring the country of 53 million to a virtual standstill.

According to several sources involved in planning the state funeral, the 10-day occasion will combine both Western traditions and those of Mandela's native clan, the Thembu.

At some stage during days one to four, Thembu elders are expected to gather for a first ceremony called 'the closing of the eyes' either at his home or in the mortuary.

After the ceremony, it is believed his body will be embalmed at the mortuary, thought to be a military hospital in Pretoria.

No formal public events are expected to take place until day five, December 10, when mourners will have a chance to say goodbye to their beloved father figure during a service at the 94,000-capacity Johannesburg soccer stadium that hosted the 2010 World Cup.

It is not clear whether Mandela's casket will be taken there.

On days six to eight, December 11 to 13, the anti-apartheid hero's body is earmarked to lie in state in a glass-topped coffin at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was inaugurated as president on May 10, 1994.

On day nine, plans have been made for a military aircraft to fly Mr Mandela to Mthatha, the main town in the South African province of Eastern Cape.

His casket will then be taken by the military on a gun carriage to Qunu, his home village, where the former leader spent his childhood years.

To mark the formal passing of responsibility to his family, the South African flag that is expected to drape his coffin will be replaced by a traditional Xhosa blanket.

Later, ANC leaders, local chiefs and Mandela's family are expected to gather for a private night vigil.

On the final day, Mandela will finally be laid to rest in the grounds of his family home in Qunu, where thousands of people, including heads of state will gather for the state funeral.

The protocol for the funeral preparations was drawn up more than a year ago, around the time when Mr Mandela's health took a turn for the worse, and it may be altered in the coming days.


Credit: Senjana Farberov/DailyMail