Mandela's memorial service: Pranab, Obama among chosen few to address gathering
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A high-level political delegation from Delhi, led by President Pranab Mukherjee, left for Johannesburg on Monday night to attend the memorial service of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The delegation includes UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Members of Parliament Sitaram Yechuri and Satish Chandra Mishra.
Mukherjee is one of only six heads of state who will address the crowd at the memorial service. He will join US President Barack Obama, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Raul Castro of Cuba as well as Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao on the podium to address the crowd.
The delegation will convey the "intense grief and personal loss" India feels over Mandela's death, Mukherjee said in a statement before the departure.
"The former president was a household name and someone Indians saw as their own," he said.
"My delegation and I hope to convey to the government and people of South Africa the intense grief and personal loss that we in India feel over the demise of the great soul — our beloved Madiba," he said.
Mandela's funeral will be held at his childhood home in Qunu village in Eastern Cape on December 15.
World leaders will be able to pay their tributes on Tuesday at the State Memorial Services held by the South African government in Johannesburg.
Scores of foreign dignitaries have already arrived in the country for the memorial service at the 95,000-seat FNB Stadium, where Mandela made his last major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.
At least 91 heads of state have already confirmed their attendance and more were believed to be coming.
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