Tuesday will be the official memorial service for Nelson Mandela, and it is expected to be one the largest memorials in recent history.
South African officials and police are already hard at work preparing for the services being held at the FNB soccer stadium. Tens of thousands of South African mourners will be met with intense security measures. Government officials have set up three overflow venues that will broadcast the services live, as well as about 90 screens set up around the country to show all the events.
Nelson Mandela passed away last Thursday, and the South African government has managed to organize a massive security operation for the memorial, albeit, not without obstacles. Rory Steyn, former head of President Mandela’s security who now runs a private firm providing protection for 25 attendees, said this is the biggest event the country will ever see:
“It’s unprecedented…We simply haven’t had this scale of VIP arrival before,…How do you test that? How do you prepare for the scale of invasion that we are about to experience?”
Defense Minister Nosivewe Mapisa-Nqakula, who is overseeing the security for the event, says they have deployed 11,000 troops, coordinating with air force and police all across the country to maintain control and protect the thousands of mourners. Mapisa-Nqakula said:
“We believe that probably a billion people will be watching how South Africa will perform. All of us, black and white, would like to make Madiba proud.”
CBS reports at least 70 foreign leaders and heads of state have made plans to pay their respects to the former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Four US Presidents, including President Barack Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prince Charles and Prince William, many European leaders, ministers, celebrities, 26 US congressmen; and many more have confirmed they will attend the event.
It seems the whole world is turning towards South Africa to honor and mourn this great leader who inspired millions in his 95 years. Following the service will be three days of events in which Mandela’s body will lie at the government house in Pretoria. On Sunday, he will be laid to rest in Qunu, his rural home located in the Eastern Cape Province.
The small village and the surrounding province are also preparing with increased security and hospitality; asking locals to assist wherever they can. Provincial premier Noxolo Kiviet spoke of how her people feel about Nelson Mandela:
“As people of the Eastern Cape, we loved him so much — we would have been easily tempted to have jealously claimed him as our own, but we recognized that his towering stature as a symbol of freedom and peace transcended the rural boundaries of Qunu, his birth place, into the world for the benefit of all human kind.”