President, Sonia to attend Mandela’s memorial service

New Delhi, Dec 8: President Pranab Mukherjee is to lead a high-level Indian delegation at the memorial service Tuesday of iconic anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

The delegation would leave Monday night for South Africa, sources told IANS.

The presence of President Mukherjee at the memorial service, to be held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, also known as the Soccer City, would be in keeping with the high regard that India held Mandela in.

The others to be part of the delegation include United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chand Mishra, sources told IANS.

Mandela, who died Dec 6 at the age of 95, was recipient of India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. He was a believer in the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, who initially served in South Africa and later went on to lead India to freedom.

Mandela served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are among other world leaders to attend the memorial service on Tuesday.

Two former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton would also be attending as well as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Mandela had made his last public appearance at the stadium for the closing ceremony of the 2010 soccer World Cup.

The state funeral and burial for the Nobel peace prize laureate would be held in his rural hometown of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province on Dec 15.

IANS