The nation remembered former president Nelson Mandela at various services. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
A who’s who of international dignitaries descended on South Africa Monday to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.
View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.
More than 70 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, Great Britain’s David Cameron, Cuba’s Raul Castro and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, were expected to attend memorial ceremonies over the next week.
"The whole world is coming to South Africa," foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told Reuters, playing down concerns that the government would struggle to host such a large event at short notice. "We're obviously not starting from scratch in terms of organization."
Former American presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George W.H. Bush were scheduled to travel to South Africa, as was Prince Charles, who is heir to the British throne. Some 26 members of Congress were also expected to attend.
On Tuesday, a memorial service is expected to fill a 95,000-seat stadium in Soweto, the township that came to symbolize the struggle against the brutal white-minority rule that Mandela fought for decades.
The tiny village of Qunu, where Nelson Mandela grew up as a child, must now prepare itself for staging the huge international event which will be his state funeral. ITV's John Irvine reports.
The government warned that police would turn away people from Tuesday’s event when the stadium filled up, and advised South Africans who don't live in Gauteng province to honor Mandela closer to home. Some 90 big screens were being set up throughout the country.
After this, Mandela’s body will lie in state for three days in Pretoria, one of the country’s three capitals and where he was sworn in as president in 1994. He will be buried in his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province on Sunday.
Mandela, who led the overthrow of the country’s racist apartheid regime and served as an example of reconciliation worldwide, died on Thursday at the age of 95.
Although he stepped down after five years as president – an relative rarity in a continent known for its leaders-for-life – Mandela exerted enormous moral influence around the world. He inspired a generation of activists, left celebrities and world leaders star-struck, won the Nobel Peace Prize and raised millions for humanitarian causes.
Kim Ludbrook / Kim Ludbrook / Kim Ludbrook / Kim Ludbrook / EPA
Mourners pay tribute to South Africa's revered anti-apartheid icon, who died on Dec. 5, 2013.
On Sunday, the first official day of mourning, South Africans of races and religions gathered to pray and honor their former leader. Methodist, Presbyterian, interfaith, Buddhist and Dutch Reformed services honored the late leader throughout the country Sunday, according to the government.
"Remember the fears we had over what would happen to the country. Under the leadership of Mr Mandela, none of those fears came true,” Rev. Andre Bartlett told a largely white congregation at Melville Dutch Reformed Church in Johannesburg.
At St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town, parishioners said they hoped Mandela's forgiving nature would become stronger in the nation's future.
"May his long walk to freedom be enjoyed and realized in our time by all of us," congregants said in a prayer.
At a service at Bryanston Methodist Church in Johannesburg, President Jacob Zuma echoed the same sentiment. He said the day was to honor Mandela, but also "to pray for our nation ... to pray that we not forget some of the values he fought for."
Reuters contributed to this report.
Nelson Mandela has been thought of a super-human person, revered by many – and during recent weeks and months he's been preparing his nation and the world for his eventual passing. NBC News Special Correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault shares her memories of Nelson Mandela.
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This story was originally published on Mon Dec 9, 2013 5:28 AM EST