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World leaders to attend Mandela’s funeral

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People sign a poster of  South African former president Nelson Mandela in Soweto  on December 6, 2013 as they pay tribute following his death in Johannesburg on the eve.

People sign a poster of South African former president Nelson Mandela in Soweto on December 6, 2013 as they pay tribute following his death in Johannesburg on the eve. Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, has died aged 95. Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE 



Posted  Friday, December 6  2013 at  11:33
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Preparations have began for the state funeral of South Africa's liberation hero Nelson Mandela, as the world mourned the peace icon's passing.

Heads of state from around the world, including US President Barack Obama, and well-known personalities who were close to the statesman like Oprah Winfrey and Bill and Hillary Clinton are expected to attend.

Unofficial government sources have said he could be laid to rest on December 14, though some are calling for his burial to take place on the 16th, a public holiday named Reconciliation Day.

More details on the funeral are due to be released later on Friday.

The gathering of world leaders will be one of the largest in South Africa since Mandela was inaugurated as its first black president in 1994.

Mandela, who died late Thursday after a long battle against lung infection, will lie in state at the seat of government the Union Buildings in the capital Pretoria.

A period of mourning will precede the 95-year-old's burial, during which the country's flags will fly at half-mast.

South Africans are also expected to mark his death at official memorial services across the country, including at Johannesburg's Soccer City, the host stadium of the 2010 World Cup final where Mandela made his last major public appearance.

Both houses of parliament will be recalled from recess for a special joint sitting in honour of Mandela's legacy.

After an official state funeral in Pretoria, his body will be flown to the Eastern Cape province, the hilly rural area where he was born and grew up.

He will be buried in a private ceremony in Qunu, next to the remains of his family, including three deceased children.

The children's graves were the subject of a bitter court feud between Mandela's grandson Mandla and other relatives, including his current wife Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Mandla had moved the remains without his relatives' consent in 2011, in what they called an effort to force his grandfather's last resting place from his childhood village Qunu to his birthplace Mvezo around 30 kilometres (18 miles) away.

The court ordered the remains to be returned to Qunu.

In recent years authorities rushed to renovate the nearby Mthatha airport and roads leading to Qunu as Mandela's health deteriorated and the prospect of large funeral proceedings loomed.

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