JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 9 -- A large number of high profile guests have begun arriving in Johannesburg to attend events commemorating former South African president Nelson Mandela, the government said on Monday.
Some 70 heads of state and government have confirmed that they will take part in the memorial service or state funeral of Mandela, according to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRC).
These include U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
International and regional organizations from the United Nations and European Commission to the African Union (AU), for example, have also confirmed attendance.
The UN will be represented by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the AU will be represented by Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
The large number of high profile guests arriving was unprecedented, said DIRC spokesman Clayson Monyela. "I don't think it has ever happened before," he said.
"The world literally is coming to South Africa. On the numbers for the memorial service, we are sitting at over 70 heads of state and government in office and we are looking at 10 for former heads of state and government," Monyela said.
Logistically, Monyela said it was a tough task but the government was up to the challenge in ensuring that everything goes according to plan.
The government has set Dec. 10 for official memorial service at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. Then Mandela's body will lie in state in the Union Buildings in Pretoria for three days starting from Dec. 11.
South Africans and selected international visitors and guests will be able to view Mandela's remains during this time.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, Mandela's remains will be transported to the Eastern Cape from air force base Waterkloof in Pretoria, where the ruling African National Congress will bid Mandela farewell.
Also on Saturday, a procession will take place from Mthatha to Qunu where the Thembu community will conduct a traditional ceremony.
On Sunday, Dec. 15, a funeral service and interment ceremony will take place at Mandela's home and final resting place at Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
The majority of international guests will not travel to Qunu for the funeral, according to the DIRC.
Mandela died of a long standing lung disease on Thursday at his Johannesburg home, at the age of 95.