Nelson Mandela death: 'Difficult days' for family

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Media captionThe BBC's Will Ross in Houghton: "People are coming through the night"

Nelson Mandela's family has given a first public statement since his death, describing the difficulty of the past two days and the week ahead.

"The pillar of our family is gone," family spokesman Lt Gen Themba Matanzima said, "but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us".

Vigils have continued in South Africa.

A funeral cortege bearing his body is to travel through the streets of Pretoria for three consecutive days before his burial next Sunday.

Mr Mandela's body will lie in state on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the heart of the South African government.

The route to be taken between the morgue and the Union Buildings will be announced before the cortege leaves, officials say.

Members of the public are being encouraged to line the route and form a "guard of honour".

Mr Mandela died on Thursday evening aged 95 at his home in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Houghton.

South Africans paid their respects in towns and cities across the country on Saturday, but the focal points for public remembrance were the house in Houghton and his old home in Soweto.

Mourners gathered in their hundreds, lighting candles and laying thousands of wreaths of flowers.

Lt Gen Matanzima likened the late president to a baobab tree that had provided shade and protection to the Mandela family.

"Yes, it has not been easy for the last two days and it won't be pleasant for the days to come," the family statement said. "But with the support we are receiving from here and beyond and in due time all will be well for the family."

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Media captionFamily spokesman: "In our hearts and souls he will always be with us"

Announcing further details of the state funeral arrangements, the government said that the late president's body was being prepared by the military health service before it lay in state.

  • On Sunday, 8 December, a national day of prayer and reflection will be held across the country to celebrate Mr Mandela's life and legacy
  • Tuesday, 10 December is the day for South Africa's official memorial service at the FNB Stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg, which will attract world leaders as well as ordinary South Africans
  • Between 11-13 December, "selected international visitors and guests" will be able to view Mr Mandela's remains at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
  • His body will be transported on Saturday, 14 December, from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to the Eastern Cape, with a procession from the airport at Mthatha to his home village of Qunu where a traditional ceremony will be held
  • A funeral service will take place at Qunu on Sunday, 15 December

Qunu is where Mr Mandela grew up and later retired to.

Flags at all official buildings are to remain at half mast throughout the period and books of condolence are being circulated across the country and online for people to post tributes, record memories and express their emotions.

President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans to go to stadiums, halls, churches, temples or synagogues on Sunday to remember their former leader.

"We should, while mourning, also sing at the top of our voices, dance and do whatever we want to do, to celebrate the life of this outstanding revolutionary who kept the spirit of freedom alive and led us to a new society. Let us sing for Madiba," he said, using Mr Mandela's clan name.

Image caption Crowds celebrated Mr Mandela's life outside his home in Houghton
Image caption Across the country, condolence books were signed, including here in Alexandra township
Image caption Bouquets of flowers were laid outside the town hall in Cape Town and in many other cities
Image caption In Qunu, where Mr Mandela will be buried, a banner was put up reading "Rest in peace Madiba"

A government statement recalled the former president's own thoughts when asked how he wished to be remembered.

"It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered," Mr Mandela said.

"I'd leave that entirely to South Africans. I would just like a simple stone on which is written, 'Mandela'."

Ahmed Kathrada, Mr Mandela's friend of 67 years and his companion in prison on Robben Island, told the BBC of his "overwhelming emotion" at seeing his old friend in hospital earlier this year.

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Media captionNelson Mandela's long-time friend, Ahmed Kathrada on visiting him in hospital: "I was shocked at this strong man - a shadow of himself"

"For 67 years I knew him as a strong man. I was shocked [to see] this strong man, a shadow of himself. That was overwhelming... so much so that I told [his wife] Mrs Machel that I don't want to see him again. I thanked her very much but I said, please, I can't bear it."

Mr Kathrada said Graca Machel had sent him a message earlier on Thursday that the former leader would die that evening.

"They were told by the doctor that he was on his very last," he said.

Tributes to Mr Mandela have come from leaders, celebrities and members of the public around the world.

US President Barack Obama said Mr Mandela "achieved more than could be expected of any man".

Pope Francis said Mr Mandela had forged "a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth".

The former South African leader spent 27 years in jail before becoming the country's first black president in 1994.

He served a single term before stepping down in 1999.

Mr Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with FW de Klerk, South Africa's last white president.

He suffered repeated bouts of ill health and since September had been receiving treatment at home for a recurring lung illness.