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Daughter: Mandela surrounded by family in week before his death

Dec. 9, 2013 at 5:39 PM   |   Comments

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- South Africa's Nelson Mandela had a "wonderful time" in the week before his death because the entire family was with him, a daughter said.

Family members at the bedside of the 95-year-old anti-apartheid icon included grandchildren, Makaziwe Mandela said in a report from the BBC Monday

"I think from last week, Friday until Thursday, it was a wonderful time, if you can say the process of death is wonderful," said the daughter, 59.

When Mandela's doctors stated "there was nothing that they could do, it was a most wonderful day for us because the grandchildren were there, we were there," she said.

Mandela -- a revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who was South Africa's first black president and first president elected in a fully representative democratic election -- died Thursday at his Johannesburg home.

The South African Foreign Ministry said at least 91 current world leaders confirmed they would attend services for Mandela. Also coming are "10 former heads of state, 86 heads of delegations and 75 eminent persons," the ministry said.

U.S. President Obama will be among those present at a 4-hour memorial at a 95,000-seat World Cup soccer stadium in Soweto Township Tuesday.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said Obama is expected to speak for 10-15 minutes, during which time he's expected to "reflect on what Nelson Mandela meant to the people of South Africa, to him personally as well."

"He obviously is cemented in our memory as an icon, but he was an extraordinary political leader, an extraordinary leader of a movement to bring about change," Rhodes said.

"I think one of the points the president will make is that it took decades of persistence and talent and a wide range of very unique skills to make Nelson Mandela the figure that he was and make him capable of bringing about that change."

Rhodes said work on Obama's speech did not start until the South African government indicated he would speak. He said Obama would fine tune his address during his flight to the continent.

Rhodes also said the administration has been in touch with the Mandela family "are seeking to see if there is time for them to meet."

"Unfortunately, we don't know for certain because things are so fluid on the ground. But we would certainly like the opportunity for the president to pay his respects to Graça Machel and the broader Mandela family," he said. "Beyond that, we don't expect any bilateral meetings of any sort."

Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their wives and 26 members of the U.S. Congress were also to attend the memorial service.

Other leaders expected at the memorial service include British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Chinese President Xi Jinping, officials said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy have also confirmed their attendance, the officials said.

The world leaders are expected to be joined by celebrities, including Irish singer, musician and activist Bono, U.S. TV host and activist for South African children Oprah Winfrey and British pop group and Mandela friends the Spice Girls, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.

The Obamas, Carters and Bushes are expected to leave South Africa after Tuesday's service. Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton are expected to stay for Mandela's state funeral Sunday in the small Eastern Cape provincial village of Qunu, where he was born, grew up and retired in May 2012.

South African Lt. Gen. Themba Templeton Matanzima said the "burden of pain and sorrow" experienced by the Mandela family was "daily being lessened by the outpouring of grief nationally and internationally," South Africa's Mail & Guardian reported.

"They express their conviction that Mandela will continue to blossom forever in all of us," he said, reading a Mandela family statement.

"Pride and gratitude is the strongest emotion we share as a family," the statement said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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