Former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD
Former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD

FORMER president Nelson Mandela, who died in Johannesburg on Thursday at the age of 95, will receive a state funeral, expected to take place in his home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Full arrangements will not be known until officials in the Presidency have consulted the former president’s family, but his death triggers a series of automatic processes.

The formal announcement of his death, according to state protocol, was made by President Jacob Zuma from the Union Buildings just before midnight on Thursday.

During the period of mourning that follows, government buildings will fly their flags at half-mast. This official mourning period does not signify public holidays and there will be no instruction to businesses to close. Employees will need their employers’ permission to leave work to pay their respects to the body lying in state.

Officials from the Presidency will discuss the funeral for the former president. The offer of a state funeral is made to the families of all former state presidents — although the families of PW Botha and Marais Viljoen both declined — and it is only in discussion with them that their wishes become known and the level of state involvement will be decided.

In this case, the family members with say over the arrangements are Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, and his three daughters — Makaziwe Mandela, Zenani Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela.

For the period of mourning, Mandela’s body is expected to lie in state, guarded by South African National Defence Force personnel.

A state period of mourning will typically last 10 days, but can be extended if needed to allow sufficient numbers of people to pay their respects. In October 1999, Tanzania declared a 30-day mourning period to allow all its people to pay their respects to former president Julius Nyerere, who was universally known as "Mwalimu", or "teacher" in KiSwahili.

During the mourning period there will most likely be an official memorial service, an act of remembrance, addressed by the state president. This service will be open to all and unlike the funeral service, the body is not present.

The state funeral for a former president takes place at the seat of government, which is the Union Buildings in Pretoria. As befitting a former commander in chief, a state funeral entails full military pomp and ceremony, with parades, military salutes and the coffin carried on gun carriage.

Mandela was born in Mvezo village in the Eastern Cape, but the Mandela family left Mvezo, trekking to the neighbouring village of Qunu — which is where he will be buried if the funeral does takes place in Pretoria. All the military pomp and ceremony seen at the funeral would be replicated as the body is carried, in its casket, from plane to grave if he were to be laid to rest in Qunu.