8 Dec 2013

'Day of prayer' for Mandela in South Africa

10:05 pm on 8 December 2013

Thousands of South Africans are expected to take part in a day of "prayer and reflection" for late President Nelson Mandela.

President Jacob Zuma will attend a service in a Methodist church in Johannesburg, with other multi-faith services planned throughout the day.

Flowers have been laid outside Nelson Mandela's home in Johannesburg.

Flowers have been laid outside Nelson Mandela's home in Johannesburg. Photo: AFP

The BBC reports a national memorial service will be held on Tuesday, ahead of a state funeral on 15 December.

South Africans have been holding vigils since Mr Mandela died on Thursday.

President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans to go to stadiums, halls, churches, temples or synagogues on Sunday to remember their former leader.

"We should, while mourning, also sing at the top of our voices, dance and do whatever we want to do, to celebrate the life of this outstanding revolutionary who kept the spirit of freedom alive and led us to a new society. Let us sing for Madiba," he said, using Mr Mandela's clan name.

Mr Mandela's successor as president, Thabo Mbeki, will attend a service at the Oxford Shul synagogue in Johannesburg in the afternoon.

Other senior politicians and ANC officials will go to services across the city, and the country.

Mandela family speak of loss

Nelson Mandela's family has spoken of their "grave sadness" at losing a humble, caring man they said was a moral guide for people around the world.

Messages are left in a condolence book in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Messages are left in a condolence book in Johannesburg on Saturday. Photo: AFP

In the first official statement from the family, spokesman Temba Matanzima described South Africa's first black president as a caring family leader who made time equally for people rich and poor, great and small.

"Tata (father) is gone. His presence was like a baobab tree that provided a comforting shade that served as protection and security for us. The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment."

Mr Matanzima praised Mr Mandela for remaining humble despite having attained the status of international icon. "We have lost a great man, a son of the soil, whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature."

The Nobel laureate who inspired millions as he led his country out of the apartheid era died on Thursday night at his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, aged 95.

For a second straight day, thousands of ordinary South Africans, black and white, and from all walks of life, paid personal tribute at the Johannesburg residence where Mr Mandela died, AFP reports. A large police barrier blocking the road was transformed into a multi-coloured bank of flowers, flags, photos and messages remembering the country's first black leader.

The South African government said a funeral cortege bearing Mr Mandela's body will travel through the streets of the capital Pretoria on three consecutive days. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the cortege would pass though the city streets to the Union Buildings where Mr Mandela's body will lie in state. The public is being encouraged to line the route.

The lying in state is part of a week of remembrance. Presidents and foreign heads of government, religious dignitaries and cultural figureheads are all expected to fly in and pay their respects.

On Tuesday a memorial service will be held at a 95,000 seat stadium in Soweto. The "Soccer City" stadium hosted the 2010 World Cup final where Mandela made his last major public appearance.

Mr Mandela's funeral will be held on 15 December in the village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, the hilly rural area where he grew up.

Residents in Qunu have lit an "eternal flame" at the Mandela museum on a hill overlooking the late statesman's home. More than 150 villagers sang hymns and gave speeches in isiXhosa, Mr Mandela's mother tongue on Saturday.