JOHANNESBURG - Tens of thousands of South Africans are expected to line the streets of Pretoria in the coming days as Nelson Mandela's body is borne daily to the Union Buildings, the seat of national government, to lie in state.
Mandela's coffin will travel from Pretoria's main military hospital and back each day for three days, offering the public perhaps the best opportunity to personally bid farewell to the beloved former president and human-rights icon who died Thursday.
As government officials spelled out tight security arrangements, strictly limiting public access to major memorial events, they sought to preempt disappointment by urging South Africans to watch the events on large video screens that will be placed in major locations around the country.
Many foreign dignitaries will attend a memorial service Tuesday at the 90,000-seat soccer stadium in Johannesburg. Much of the seating is likely to be allocated to VIPs and members of Mandela's African National Congress, bused in from around South Africa.
The White House said Saturday that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama would attend the Tuesday service. They will be accompanied on Air Force One by former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with former President Jimmy Carter, will also attend memorials for Mandela in South Africa.
A two-mile security cordon will be placed around Qunu, Mandela's home village, where he is to be buried next Sunday. Only the state-controlled broadcast network SABC and a government photographer will be allowed to attend on behalf of the media. Members of the public are expected to line the roads again when his body travels from the airport to his final resting place in Qunu.
Nine thousand people are scheduled to attend the state funeral, including heads of state and dignitaries from around the world.
Access to the Union Buildings also will be tightly controlled, with government officials foreshadowing "some form of accreditation process" for the public seeking to see Mandela lying in state, without spelling out details. It was not clear how this could be organized.
Government officials are encouraging members of the public to line the route rather than to try to get into the Union Buildings, where cellphones and cameras will be strictly banned.
Mandela's family spoke Saturday for the first time since his death, describing in a statement their grief at losing a "great man, a pillar of the family," who remained humble despite his global fame.
President Obama called Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, on Saturday to extend his condolences.
Mandela's family, sensitive about the intense media interest in his funeral, is walking a difficult line between the need for privacy to grieve and the sense that Mandela belonged to the world. Military doctors Saturday were preparing Mandela's body, government officials said.
"The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment," the family spokesman, Lt. Gen. Themba Templeton Matanzima, said Saturday. He read a statement to journalists but took no questions.
He said the two days since Mandela's death had been difficult, "and it won't be pleasant in the days to come. We have lost a great man, a son of the soil, whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature," he said.
He thanked South Africans and citizens of the world for their messages of support.
Here is the schedule of arrangements for the laying to rest of Nelson Mandela, as announced by South African President Jacob Zuma:
Dec. 8: National day of prayer and reflection.
Dec. 10: Official memorial service at the FNB Stadium in
Dec. 11 to Dec. 13: Mandela's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Official memorial services will be held in all provinces and regions.
Dec. 15: State funeral and burial at Qunu, Eastern Cape province.
SOURCE: Associated PressEndText
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