Mukherjee will join the heads of governments and states from more than 53 countries, including US President Barack Obama, in the two-hour long memorial service to be held at a 95,000-seat FNB Stadium, where Mandela made his last major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.

Mukherjee is accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Members of Parliament Sitaram Yechuri and Satish Chandra Mishra as well as senior officers of the government.

Prior to his departure for South Africa to attend the Memorial Service in honour of former president Nelson Mandela, President Mukherjee said in New Delhi: “It is with sadness that I leave for South Africa to attend the State Memorial Service in honour of Dr. Nelson Mandela who left his worldly abode on 5 December 2013.”

He said Nelson Mandela’s life was a living example of human strength and courage in the face of brute force and gross injustice.

“Participation in the Memorial Service by a delegation, representing the cross-section of our political spectrum reflects the high degree of love and respect which Dr. Mandela commanded in India. He was a household name and someone, we saw as one of our own. His life was a living example of human strength and courage in the face of brute force and gross injustice,” said President Mukherjee.

“He was the last of the giants who led the world’s struggles against the colonialism and his struggle held special significance for us as we saw in him a reflection of our own prolonged anti-colonial struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi,” he added.

President Mukherjee said India and South Africa are countries and peoples who have shared both the tragedy of colonialism and the triumph of the free spirit.

“Today, we stand together united in our determination to realize common goals and build a new world,” said President Mukherjee.

“My delegation and I hope to convey to the Government and people of South Africa the intense grief and personal loss that we in India feel over the sad demise of the great soul - our beloved ‘Madiba’,” he added.

(JPN/Agencies)

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