Members of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) have gathered to remember Nelson Mandela. His body is now on route to his ancestral home in the Eastern Cape ahead of his state funeral on Sunday.
Nelson Mandela's flag-draped coffin was taken to the Waterkloof air base outside South Africa's capital Pretoria early Saturday for a memorial service organized by the party he once led.
Top government officials including President Jacob Zuma joined ANC members for the ceremony alongside foreign guests including US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. Mandela's widow Graca Machel, his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other family members also attended the multi-faith and musical memorial, which was broadcast live of South African television.
Mandela's remains are now being transported on a C-130 Hercules military aircraft to an airport near his rural childhood home village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.
It will be meet with a full military ceremony, including a 21-gun salute and a flyover by the South African Air Force. His body will then be taken to the Mandela family farm, where further rituals will be performed.
Qunu is to be the former president and anti-apartheid hero's final resting place. An estimated 50,000 people are expected to attend his funeral on Sunday, including Britain's Prince Charles. It will be held according to traditional Xhosa rites overseen by male members of Mandela's clan.
His burial is to be a private affair, barred to both the public and the media.
Public outpouring of grief
Sunday's service will be the culmination of 10 days of memorial events for Mandela, who died on December 5 aged 95. His death has sparked mourning and expressions of grief both in South Africa itself and in the international community, where he was widely seen as an icon of reconciliation after apartheid and a moral authority.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people, including politicians and dignitaries from more than 90 countriesattended a memorial service at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium - also known as Soccer City.
His body then lay in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first black president two decades earlier. Up a 100,000 people were reported to have lined up for several hours to file past Mandela's open casket.
The huge numbers of people waiting in line on the final day on Friday,meant thousands had to be turned away without paying their respects.
ccp/ipj (AFP, AP)