Flags were lowered to half-staff across South Africa and people in black townships, in upscale mostly white suburbs and in the country’s vast rural grasslands commemorated Nelson Mandela with song, tears and prayers on Friday while pledging to adhere to the values of unity and democracy that he embodied.
The anti-apartheid leader will be buried on Sunday, Dec. 15 at his rural home in Qunu, and a memorial service in a Johannesburg stadium will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 10, President Jacob Zuma announced. Mandela’s body will lie in state at government buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday, Dec. 11, until the burial, and this coming Sunday, Dec. 8, will be a national day of prayer and reflection.
South African Airways said it will provide chartered air transport for invited mourners to Mandela’s funeral in his rural hometown in Eastern Cape province.
Hours after Mandela’s death Thursday night, a black SUV-type vehicle containing his coffin, draped in South Africa’s flag, pulled away from Mandela’s home after midnight, escorted by military motorcycle outriders, to take the body to a military morgue in Pretoria, the capital.
Many South Africans heard the news, which was announced on state TV by Zuma wearing mourning black just before midnight, upon waking Friday, and they flocked to his home in Johannesburg’s leafy Houghton neighborhood. One woman hugged her two sons over a floral tribute.
A dozen doves were released into the skies. A man walked around with a tall-stemmed sunflower. People sang tribal songs, the national anthem, God Bless Africa — the anthem of the anti-apartheid struggle — and Christian hymns. Many wore traditional garb of Zulu, Xhosa and South Africa’s other ethnic groups. One carried a sign saying: “He will rule the universe with God.” Jewish and Muslim leaders were also present.