South Africans prepare to bid adieu to Madiba

Mandela funeralsoldiers guard the home of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, where the state funeral and burial for him will be held, people light candles outside his home in Johannesburg. REUTERS

South Africa is readying itself for the arrival of a flood of world leaders for the memorial service and funeral for Nelson Mandela as thousands of mourners continued to flock to sites around the country Saturday to pay homage to the freedom struggle icon.

At Mandela's house in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Houghton, more than 100 people, black and white, gathered in the morning where they sang liberation songs and homages to Mandela. Children danced to the singing from the swaying crowd as hawkers nearby sold Mandela regalia.

Among those who have already indicated that they will be travelling to South Africa to honour Mandela, who died at his Johannesburg home at the age of 95 Thursday night, are United States President Barack Obama and his two predecessors, George W Bush and Bill Clinton. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff will also be among the guests.

A week of mourning, with several events planned, has been declared by the government. Sunday has been declared a national day of prayer and reflection, while a national memorial service is scheduled Tuesday to be held at a Johannesburg stadium where Mandela made his last public appearance for the closing ceremony of the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Official memorial services will also be held in all of South Africa's provinces and regions over the next week.

Mandela's body will lie in state from Wednesday till Friday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa's capital.

Mandela's remains will also be paraded through the streets of the capital during those days, the government said Saturday.

The state funeral and burial for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate will be held in his rural hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape Province Sunday December 15.

The state airline, South African Airways, has laid on special charter flights to ferry invited dignitaries to the funeral.

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