U.S. President Barack Obama, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Cuban leader Raul Castro were among the speakers at a massive memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Obama and Castro shook hands and chatted briefly and awkwardly.
Close to 100 heads of state and government attended Tuesday’s observance at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Other speakers include U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, as well as family members of the former president, who died last Thursday at the age of 95.
Jacob Zuma, the incumbent president and head of Mandela’s African National Congress, to deliver one of the principal addresses at the service.
After the memorial, Mandela’s body will lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings government complex in Pretoria.
The father of democratic South Africa will be laid to rest on Sunday in Qunu, the rural southeastern community where he grew up.
Mandela succumbed to chronic pulmonary problems that were a legacy of the tuberculosis he contracted during 27 years behind bars in his struggle against South Africa’s racist regime.
Trained as an attorney, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944 and went on to establish the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).
He was convicted in June 1964 on charges of sabotage of power plants and other vital infrastructure and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government.
Mandela became South Africa’s first freely elected president in 1994, four years after he was released from prison by order of then-President F.W. de Klerk.
The pair shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts that led to an agreement to transfer power to a government representing South Africa’s black majority.
Mandela served just one term as president but he is credited with promoting reconciliation among white and black South Africans and helping to avert widespread racial violence in the post-apartheid era.