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Waterkloof prepares for arrival of dignitaries

More than 70 heads of state will be arriving in South Africa for the FNB memorial service.

The South African Air Force cut the grass with weedeaters ahead of US president's arrival in Air Force Base in Pretoria on 9 December 2013. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

PRETORIA - The Air Force and the Tshwane Municipality are working overtime to spruce up the Waterkloof Air Force Base ahead of the arrival of United States President Barack Obama and other international dignitaries.

More than 70 heads of state are en route to South Africa for former President Nelson Mandela's memorial service, which will be held at the FNB Stadium on Tuesday.

Eyewitness News can confirm at least seven heads of state are expected to touchdown at Waterkloof in the next 12 hours.

The presidents of Chad and Senegal are expected to arrive at the base within the next two hours.

The details are contained on a flight schedule, which Eyewitness News has seen.

Also expected later today are delegations from Canada, China and Kenya.

But the Unites States is not listed on the schedule. Officials from the US embassy are however at the base's passenger terminal, making arrangements for Obama and his delegation.

The OR Tambo International Airport is also expected to welcome dignitaries.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president, passed away on Thursday last week at the age of 95.

Air Force troops in uniforms, armed themselves with weed eaters and are trimming overgrown bush in the street outside the base.

And while the defence force deals with horticultural maintenance, Tshwane municipal workers are picking up litter.

The urgent tidying up of this National Key Point comes ahead of Obama and his delegation's arrival.

In an unusual move, former US Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W Bush and Bill Clinton as well as their spouses and 26 congressmen will also attend the event.

It's unclear at what time the group will touch down in Pretoria.

GOVERNMENT PREPARES

Government officials are gearing up for a week that will not only see 70 heads of state arrive, but will also see 10 former heads of state land in South Africa to pay their last respects.

Some are also expected to speak during the service at FNB Stadium.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela says world leaders will travel with their own security detail, but will have to work closely with local authorities.

"The whole world is literally coming to South Africa."

The world's major organisations such as the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the World Bank will also be represented.

Meanwhile, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the number of high-profile guests arriving in South Africa is unprecedented.

OTHER IMPORTANT EVENTS THIS WEEK

Several other events are also planned for this week and points of interest such as memorial sites with condolence books are also being arranged.

Provincial legislatures and city councils are also hosting special sittings this week.

From 11 to 13 December, Mandela's remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

A procession will leave 1 Military Hospital at 7am everyday.

Government has encouraged members of the public to form a guard of honour along the route in the mornings.

On Wednesday, only the Mandela family and VVIPs will view the body from 10am, after which members of the public can file past the body from 12pm to 5.30pm.

On Thursday and Friday, the public will have access to the casket from 8am to 5.30pm.

This will be followed by Sunday's funeral in Qunu.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the majority of international guests will not travel to Qunu in the Eastern Cape for the funeral which is taking place on 15 December.

For an up-to-date and comprehensive guide to the various events, including information on transport, see EWN's special guide, Saying goodbye to Madiba: Event planner or the shorter guide, Mandela events: Brief information guide.

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