President Obama, Brazilian President and Cuban Leader To Speak at Nelson Mandela Memorial
President Obama, Brazilian President and Cuban Leader To Speak at Nelson Mandela Memorial

Nelson Mandela’s funeral will undoubtedly rival or even surpass Pope John Paul II’s send-off. There are over 89 heads-of-state plannings to attend, not to mention the scores of other dignitaries, celebrities and politicians. Among them will be President Obama, former president George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, along with their wives. I was very surprised to learn that the US Congress will have a delegation of 29 members, including two Republicans, of which Sen. Ted Cruz, is one.

It’s also interesting to note the order of speakers at the memorial Tuesday at FNB Stadium — President Obama will be the first foreign leader to speak, followed by heads of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff; China’s Vice President Li Yuanchao, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba; Indian President Pranab Mukherjee; Cuban President Raul Castro. President Obama has had a frosty relationship with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, in light of the National Security Agency reportedly reading her emails. Only Madiba could get the unlikeliest of people together on the same stage.

Notable absences are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon PeresReuters reported Monday. Netanyahu’s aides cited costs of travel and security as reasons for his absence, while Peres, 90, was advised against going by his doctors. Haaretz reports that Netanyahu’s spending habits have come under fire recently and the cost of the trip to South Africa would be about $2 million. Personally, Netanyahu should be the last person to attend Mandela’s funeral because of his treatment of migrant Africans to Israel. He’s carrying out his own version of apartheid in Israel.

Also in attendance will by tycoon Sir Richard Branson, supermodel Naomi Campbell, musicians Bono, Annie Lenox and Peter Gabriel. Naomi Campbell was described as Madiba as his ‘honorary granddaughter.’ She helped raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and for the African National Congress. Oprah Winfrey is also en route to the memorial.

Three previous British prime ministers — Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, will join current Prime Minister David Cameron at the memorial ceremony. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband will also attend. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will attend and will also speak.