9 Dec 2013

PM to leave for South Africa to pay respects

1:49 pm on 9 December 2013

Prime Minister John Key will leave for South Africa on Monday to attend the official memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Mr Key says many New Zealanders felt an emotional connection to Mr Mandela and the country's sympathies are with South Africa at this difficult time.

Prime Minister John Key.

Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ

The Prime Minister will lead a small delegation, including Leader of the Opposition David Cunliffe, former Foreign Minister and Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Don McKinnon and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

He says the distinguished delegation reflects the mana of Mr Mandela and the highest regard in which New Zealand held him.

Mr Mandela's official memorial service will be held in Johannesburg on Tuesday and many leaders, including President Barack Obama are expected to attend.

He will then he'll lie in state in South Africa's seat of government, Pretoria, for the following three days.

Nelson Mandela will have a private burial in Qunu, the rural village where he spent his early childhood, next weekend.