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Obama to arrive in SA in next 48hrs

The US ambassador to SA has confirmed the Obamas will attend the memorial at FNB Stadium.

Former president Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on 15 December. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle look set to arrive in South Africa within the next 48 hours to attend Tuesday's memorial service in honour of former president Nelson Mandela.

US Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard says Obama's attendance at the memorial, being held at FNB Stadium, is of central importance to him.

"He is absolutely attending the memorial service on Tuesday with the first lady. The president expressed very clearly on the evening of the announcement of Madiba's transition that Nelson Mandela has helped to shape his activism and his political involvement."

Gaspard says Obama's attendance also reinforces America's intention to continue working with South Africa in a consistent and steady partnership to move forward with justice, freedom and democracy.

The first couple are then scheduled to attend Madiba's funeral being held in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on 15 December.

French President François Hollande has also confirmed he will be in South Africa.

Dignitaries such as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former US President Bill Clinton are also expected to be on the list.

Government is likely to give a more detailed indication today of how many heads of state and VIP guests it will host next week.

GOVERNMENT GEARS UP

On Saturday, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane dealt with some of the logistics surrounding the events planned in the coming days.

Government said visiting heads of state can choose which events they'll attend.

Chabane said South Africa has hosted major global events before and said government isn't particularly concerned about threats to security.

"We must always be concerned about the possibility of terror, but for us this doesn't present a specific challenge."

He said the funeral will be a delicate balance of diplomatic protocols and cultural practices.

"We are working with the Mandela family on a continuous basis to ensure there is concurrency in everything we do with the state, the ANC and the Mandela family."

Chabane also downplayed concerns about the memorial service being held on 10 December, saying once the venue is full people will be turned away and redirected to other venues.

Mandela's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings from Wednesday 11 December to Friday 13 December.

There, South Africans and selected international visitors and guests will be able to view his remains.

During this time, Mandela's remains will be transported daily between 1 Military Hospital, Thaba Tshwane and the Union Buildings.

Chabane urged South Africans to line the streets and form a guard of honour as Mandela's body is transported across Pretoria next week.

He said details of this route and times will be provided in due course.

President Jacob Zuma has declared today a day of prayer and reflection ahead of the state funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on 15 December.

Click here for a basic guide on the events leading up to and including Mandela's state funeral.

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