Mandela Funeral Poses Massive Challenge

World leaders will descend on remote village

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 6, 2013 4:57 AM CST | Updated Dec 6, 2013 7:54 AM CST

(Newser) – The death of Nelson Mandela is certain to plunge South Africa into a near-standstill of national mourning for around two weeks—but the country still faces the challenge of holding one of the biggest state funerals ever seen, the Guardian finds. Scores of heads of state, royals, other dignitaries, and celebrities are expected to pour into the country from around the world to attend the ceremony in Qunu, the remote village in the Eastern Cape where Mandela grew up, creating a security and logistical nightmare one commentator likens to "a simultaneous opening and closing ceremony of the World Cup, a presidential inauguration and a monarch's coronation." At the same time, an army of news crews from around the world will be scrambling for accommodation.

For now, the great statesman's body is believed to be in a military hospital in Pretoria, where he will be embalmed before Monday's ceremony of national mourning at a 95,000-seat soccer stadium in Soweto, reports CNN. According to government sources, he will then lie in state for three days at the seat of government in Pretoria before a military aircraft flies the body to Qunu next Friday, where the military will hand responsibility for his remains to his famiy. The next day, the state funeral will be broadcast to millions. Finally, he will be buried in a small, private family ceremony in accordance with his Xhosa tribal roots, at a burial spot he chose overlooking the fields where he tended cattle as a boy, the Telegraph reports.

The house of former South African President Nelson Mandela, center rear, in Qunu, South Africa.   (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
In this Feb. 11, 1990 file photo, Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, raise clenched fists as they walk hand-in-hand upon his release from prison in Cape Town, South Africa.   (AP Photo/Greg English, File)
A man holds up his fist in front of the statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela.   (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
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He is the hero of the planet. It's going to be the biggest state funeral since Winston Churchill, and I think any country would struggle to organize that. - A senior British diplomat

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