South Africans flocked to houses of worship for a national day of prayer and reflection to honour former President Nelson Mandela, starting planned events to commemorate the liberation struggle icon that will culminate in what is expected to be one of the biggest funerals in modern times.
A national memorial service for the man who, as the country's first black president, forged a new multiracial South Africa after helping to dismantle apartheid, will be held at a Johannesburg stadium on Tuesday.
His body will lie in state at the Union Buildings, the seat of government, in the nation's capital, Pretoria, from Wednesday to Friday, followed by his funeral and burial in the village where he spent his childhood in a remote rural part of the country next Sunday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves today for South Africa to join leaders from around the world who are paying final respects to Mandela.
Harper will attend a public memorial for Mandela on Tuesday in Johannesburg, as well as his lying in state in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Harper will be joined by three of his predecessors, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Kim Campbell who were invited to fly on the prime minister's plane.
Former Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean will also be joining Harper's delegation.
Mulroney spearheaded Canada's efforts to free Mandela from prison and pressure South Africa to end apartheid, while Chretien was prime minister when Mandela was granted honorary Canadian citizenship in 2001.