A total of 53 heads of state and government have confirmed, so far, that they will attend the state funeral services for former President Nelson Mandela, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashaban said Sunday.
Most of the leaders will be on hand next Tuesday for the official religious service in Mandela’s memory that will be held in the FNB Stadium, formerly known as Soccer City, in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto.
At a press conference in Johannesburg, Nkoana-Mashaban emphasized that “there is no precedent” for the interest that the loss of the former president has sparked in the international community, local Eyewitness News radio reported.
The list of leaders who will attend the services is still not finalized and could grow in the coming days, and many countries will also send representatives of lesser diplomatic rank.
Presidential Chief of Staff Collins Chabane said that some dignitaries already have begun to arrive in South Africa.
International organizations such as the U.N., the European Union and the African Union have also announced that their top officials will attend the funeral.
Among the leaders who have confirmed their attendance are U.S. President Barack Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
After the religious service on Tuesday, Mandela’s casket will proceed through the streets of Pretoria from Dec. 11-13 so that South Africans may pay their last respects, and the state funeral is scheduled for next Sunday in the small southeastern town of Qunu, where Mandela was born and wanted to be buried.
The former South African president died at age 95 last Thursday in Johannesburg after a long bout of respiratory problems.