A large number of world leaders, including President Goodluck Jonathan, President Barack Obama of the United States and British Prime Minister David Cameroon are scheduled to attend the burial of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela who died on Thursday.
The anti- apartheid icon will be buried on December 15 in his village in Qunu, Eastern Cape, after a state funeral.
Also in a rare global honour, the flags of several countries in the world will fly at half mast beginning Friday, in honour of Mandela.
President Jacob Zuma who announced the funeral plans for Mandela yesterday afternoon said the official memorial service for the departed icon would be held on December 10 at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Mandela, who died after a long health struggle at the age of 95 will lie in state from December 11 to 13 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Zuma said, adding that the buildings are "where he served as the first president."
"During these days, official memorial services will also be held in all provinces and regions," he said.
"We sincerely thank all South Africans for the dignified manner in which they have respected and responded to the monumental loss of this international icon, who was a symbol of reconciliation, unity, love, human rights and justice in our country and the world.
“Sunday December 8 would be reserved as a national day of prayer and reflection for Mandela. We should all work together to organise the most befitting funeral for this outstanding son of our country and the father of our young nation.
"We call upon all our people to gather in halls, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and in their homes to pray and hold prayer services and meditation reflecting on the life of Madiba and his contribution to our country and the world," Zuma said.
Zuma had earlier yesterday visited Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg, where the former president passed away, to pay his respects to the Mandela family.
He said the number of tributes pouring in from the international community was a testament to Mandela's calibre of leadership.
"We'll always love Madiba for teaching us that it is possible to overcome hatred and anger in order to build a new nation and a new society. We spend the week mourning his passing. We'll also spend it celebrating a life well lived, a life that we must all emulate for the betterment of our country and Africa. Long live Madiba," Zuma said.
Meanwhile, Jonathan yesterday declared three days of national mourning for Mandela and added that flags are to be flown at half mast across Nigeria during the period.
Jonathan in a statement urged all Nigerians to unite in solidarity with "the brotherly people of South Africa as they mourn the great liberator, freedom fighter and hero of the black race."
He called for special prayers in mosques and churches in Nigeria during the period of mourning which began yesterday, for the peaceful repose of Mandela’s soul.
A special inter-denominational memorial service for Mandela will be held at the State House Chapel on Sunday.
President Obama on Thursday also ordered flags to fly at half-staff at the White House and public buildings in mourning the death of the anti-apartheid hero.
Obama's proclamation, which also extended to US foreign missions, military posts, naval stations and military vessels, is valid through sunset on Monday.
Obama is expected to travel to South Africa next week to participate in memorial events for Mandela. He will be accompanied by former President Bill Clinton.
"President Obama and the first lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events. We'll have further updates on timing and logistics as they become available," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement friday.
Pope Benedict Francis in a statement yesterday paid tribute to Mandela's struggle to forge a just South Africa, praising the anti-apartheid hero's commitment to non-violence, reconciliation and truth.
"I pray that the late president's example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations," Francis said in a telegram to Zuma.
The pontiff praised "the steadfast commitment shown by Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also joined global figures yesterday to mourn the exit Mandela.
In a statement issued Friday, Ki Moon described Mandela as “a singular figure on the global stage; a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement; a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.”
He urged everyone to emulate the virtues which the late Mandela stood for.
"Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways. At the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.
“Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity, and he did so at great personal sacrifice. His principled stance and the moral force that under pinned it were decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid.
“Remarkably, he emerged from 27 years of detention without rancour, determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and understanding. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established under his leadership remains a model for achieving justice in societies confronting a legacy of human rights abuses,” the UN secretary general said.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo while reacting to the death of Mandela said that the world had lost a world leader.
According to Obasanjo, as the whole world pays tribute to Madiba, I join them in celebrating the life of a man who raised the beacon of human struggle to lofty heights of nobility and whose life is an example of what we should all aspire for.”
Obasanjo said his demise was a loss to his family “who would miss a caring patriarch, the people of South Africa who would miss a guide, Africa who would miss a role model and the world who would miss a leader.”
Speaking further, he said: “In all situations, he lived nobly and died in nobility. Let us bear in mind that we all have the opportunity to act nobly in whatever position we find ourselves. When we teach our children the lessons for tomorrow, let us be reminded of the lessons Mandela gave the world in forgiveness and forbearance."
While recalling his days with the late Mandela, Obasanjo said one of his earliest contacts with Nelson Mandela was in February 1986 when he visited him at Polls-moor Prison in his capacity as Co-Chairman of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group on South Africa.
He said: "He (Mandela) dressed defiantly in ANC belt and reminded me of his visit to Nigeria in 1962. Though appalled by Apartheid, I left his prison cell deeply convinced that the history of South Africa and, indeed, Africa would be worse off and would not be complete if the purpose for which he was in jail – elimination of apartheid – did not end for him to be in a position to lead his country from racial and tribal division into a rainbow united society.
"The eventual release of Nelson Mandela from prison was inevitable. On a visit to South Africa, I called on Mandela after he was released from prison on Sunday, 11 February 1990. He pulled me out of the hotel and made me to stay with him and his family in their house in Soweto."
He added: "The last time I saw him was about two years ago. I went to visit him at his Johannesburg residence. His health had deteriorated somewhat but he was still very alert but did not talk much during our discussions; Graca did more of the talking."
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka simply remarked: “The soul of Africa has departed and there is nothing miraculous left in the world.”
As many in Africa continue to mourn Mandela, they are hoping their leaders today will be inspired by the anti-apartheid hero to heal another rift widening dangerously across the continent: the wealth gap.
"We need the next Mandela to fight for the poor," said Thomas Kozzih, 30, a community worker in Nairobi's Kibera slum – an expanse of metal shacks butting up against smart new flats that testify to Africa's new growth that has left many behind.