South Africa prepares to bury Mandela

CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA Associated Press Published:

QUNU, South Africa (AP) -- Several thousand guests, some singing and dancing, gathered Sunday for Nelson Mandela's state funeral in a huge tent at the family compound of the anti-apartheid leader.

Guests included senior South African officials, veterans of the fight against white rule and foreign diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard. Britain's Prince Charles, entrepreneur Richard Branson and former Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai were also there.

Mandela's portrait was placed behind two rows of candles in the white, dome-shaped marquee.

Outside, South African military honor guards marched and stood at attention on a dirt road. After the funeral ceremony, a smaller group of guests will attend Mandela's burial at a family grave site on the estate in Qunu, a rural village in Eastern Cape province.

The burial will end 10 days of mourning ceremonies that included a massive stadium memorial in Johannesburg and three days during which Mandela's body lay in state in the capital, Pretoria. He died Dec. 5 at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home.

The vehicle carrying Mandela's casket, covered with a national flag, arrived at the family compound on Saturday. It was accompanied by an enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles.

The casket was transported on a military plane from an air base in the capital to this simple village in the wide-open spaces of eastern South Africa.