GCC leaders gather for Mandela memorial

Representatives from the region in Johannesburg to attend a memorial service on Tuesday

Leaders from across the GCC are in Johannesburg to attend a memorial service on Tuesday for former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Almost 100 world leaders are expected to attend the service, which begins 11am local time Tuesday at the FNB stadium.

Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95.

Thousands braved wet and windy conditions to queue up overnight for the service at the 90,000-seat stadium where Mandela made his last appearance for the 2010 World Cup final.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan has led a UAE delegation to attend the memorial service and funeral, which will be held in Mandela’s hometown on December 15.

Saudi Arabia has sent a high-level delegation headed by Second Deputy Premier, Prince Muqrin. Prince Muqrin will convey the condolences of Saudi leadership to the South African president and Mandela’s family, local media reported.

Representing Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said will be Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Salim Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, and Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Other GCC countries Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar have not made public whether they have sent a delegation to South Africa.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Lebanon caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is attending the memorial, as is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to attend, but cancelled his plans at the last minute due to the $2m cost of transport and security. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has not yet confirmed whether he will travel.

High-profile world leaders to attend the memorial service include US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Obama will be joined by former US presidents George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, with former UK PM’s Gordon Brown, John Major and Tony Blair also confirmed.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and India's Pranab Mukherjee will also attend. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and singer-activist Bono, as well as Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel are expected to be among the celebrity mourners.

South African President Jacob Zuma will make the keynote address, and other speakers include UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Four of Mandela’s grandchildren will speak for his family. Neither his widow, Graca Machel, nor his ex-wife Winne Madikizela-Mandela are listed on the programme.

The week-long funeral rites will culminate on Sunday in Mandela’s burial at a family plot in his rural, boyhood home of Qunu, where only a small number of dignitaries will attend.

Before that, his body will lie in state for three days in the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

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