Nelson Mandela to be buried Dec. 15

12:10 PM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- Flags flew at half-staff Friday as South Africa, in deep mourning, prepared for a week of reflection, prayer and remembrance before Nelson Mandela is laid to rest in a state funeral next Sunday in the Eastern Cape village of Qunu.

Hours after the death of the anti-apartheid leader and former president, a black SUV-type vehicle containing his flag-draped coffin pulled away from his home after midnight, escorted by military motorcycle outriders, to take the body to a military morgue in Pretoria, the capital.

South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela's body will lie in state at government buildings in the capital from Dec. 11, until the burial in the village where he grew up.

He declared Dec. 8 a "national day of prayer and reflection" for South Africans.

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"We call upon all our people to gather in halls, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and in their homes for prayer services and meditation, reflecting on the life of Madiba and his contribution to our country and the world," Zuma said.

Mandela, who grew up in Qunu and is affectionately called "Madiba," died Thursday at the age of 95.

A separate memorial service will be held on Dec. 10 on the outskirts of Johannesburg in a stadium that can seat around 100,000.

South African Airways said it will provide chartered air transport for invited mourners to the funeral in Eastern Cape province.

As the country mourns, heads of states, including President Obama, made plans to attend the funeral.

The respect felt for Mandela throughout the country was in evidence with the flags at half-staff in black townships, in upscale mostly white suburbs and in the country's vast rural grasslands.

F.W. de Klerk, South Africa's last apartheid-era president, described Mandela as a "very human person" with a sense of humor who took interest in people around him.

The two men negotiated the end of apartheid, finding common cause in often tense circumstances, and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Summarizing Mandela's legacy, de Klerk paraphrased Mandela's own words on eNCA television: "Never and never again should there be in South Africa the suppression of anyone by another."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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