Mourners gather for Mandela funeral
Published 15/12/2013 | 07:13
Dignitaries from around the world have gathered for the state funeral of Nelson Mandela in the remote village where the anti-apartheid fighter grew up.
The Prince of Wales is among some 4,000 people attending the final farewell service for South Africa's first black president, along with Mr Mandela's family members, African leaders and several heads of state.
Charles, who arrived in South Africa this morning, has been joined by the British High Commissioner to South Africa Judith Macgregor for the service in Qunu.
Prominent US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson is also attending, as well as former Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, entrepreneur Richard Branson and broadcaster Oprah Winfrey.
It marks the end of a week of m emorial events for the anti-apartheid hero which have attracted thousands of South Africans and world leaders.
Charles is representing the Queen after Buckingham Palace confirmed that the 87-year-old monarch would not make the journey to South Africa for the ceremonies to mark Mr Mandela's death.
After the former statesman's death, Charles described Mr Mandela as the "embodiment of courage and reconciliation" and said his passing had left "an immense void" in the lives of everyone who had been affected by his fight for justice and freedom.
The South African and Union flags are being flown at half-mast above 10 Downing Street today to mark the ceremony.
Mr Mandela's body arrived in Qunu in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa yesterday as large numbers of people lined the roads to pay their respects as the cortege passed by.
His coffin, draped in the country's national flag, had earlier been carried from a farewell service in Pretoria and onto a military plane, escorted by two fighter jets.
This morning, South African military honour guards marched and stood at attention on a dirt road at the Mandela family compound ahead of the funeral.
After the ceremony, a smaller group of mourners will attend his burial at a family grave site on the estate.
Preparations for Mr Mandela's funeral were marred by a public spat between the South African government and retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the most prominent survivors in the long anti-apartheid struggle.
Mr Tutu, a Nobel laureate who has strongly criticised the current government, will attend after earlier saying he would not, despite wanting to pay respects to his long-time friend.
He had said he was not invited - an apparent snub that the South African government vehemently denies.
At least 100,000 people saw Mr Mandela's body lying in state in Pretoria over three days this week, but some had to be turned away.
The 95-year-old former leader, who was imprisoned for 27 years for opposing apartheid before emerging in 1990 to forge a new democratic South Africa, died on December 5.