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World leaders and celebrities to fly to South Africa for Nelson Mandela memorials

Few will want to miss being seen mourning one of the twentieth century’s greatest figures

World leaders, dignitaries and celebrities from around the world are preparing to fly to South Africa to take part in memorials for Nelson Mandela.

The state funeral will be held on December 15, appropriately on the eve of South Africa’s Day of Reconciliation, but world leaders are expected to attend events held next week.

Celebrities are also clearing their diaries so that they can take part in the ceremonies at which Mandela will be remembered and celebrated.

Political leaders will include President Barack Obama who will fly with his wife, Michelle, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, to “pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela”. Bill Clinton hopes to join him and other former US presidents could also make the trip.

The full cast of statesmen and women is still to be confirmed but few will want to miss being seen mourning one of the twentieth century’s greatest figures. David Cameron is planning to fly out early next week, as are Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

The Queen or the Prince of Wales are expected to travel to South Africa, though it remains unclear which event they will attend.

Other public figures expected to take part in memorial events Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft,  U2’s Bono, and Oprah Winfrey, the chat show host.

A series of events will be held next week, with one of the biggest being an official memorial at the  FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, where Mandela appeared for the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup.

His body will lie in state in Pretoria from Wednesday to Friday before the state funeral and burial at Mandela’s home village of Qunu on December 15.

A national day of prayer and reflection has been declared for Sunday. President Jacob Zuma said: "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."