JOHANNESBURG — South African authorities scrambled Monday to deal with the logistical, security, and protocol complexities of hosting scores of visiting dignitaries — and tens of thousands of their own people — at Tuesday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
As members of Parliament gathered in Cape Town to honor the former leader, adding to the tributes and praise since Mandela’s death Thursday, officials said the visitors from overseas would include President Obama along with former presidents George W. Bush, Clinton, and Carter.
Obama will be among the speakers at the service, the Associated Press reported.
Bush and his wife, Laura, along with Hillary Rodham Clinton, former secretary of state, traveled to South Africa on Air Force One as guests of Obama and his wife, Michelle.
The conference room of the presidential plane served as a gathering spot for the former president and three first ladies, with Obama popping in between in-flight meetings and calls. The flight from Washington to Johannesburg was scheduled to take about 16 hours, including a one-hour refueling stop.
Presidents Clinton and Carter were traveling to South Africa on their own. Carter will attend as a member of The Elders — a group of veteran global figures sponsored by Mandela, the group said Sunday.
Former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, will not attend. The elder Bush, who is 89, can no longer travel great distances.
Tuesday’s memorial service will be held in the FNB Stadium, the soccer field where Mandela made his last public appearance in 2010. It will precede three days during which Mandela’s body will lie in state in the Union Buildings in Pretoria — once the seat of white power — before his burial Sunday in his childhood village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
Britain’s royal family said Monday that Prince Charles would represent Queen Elizabeth II in Qunu, and Prime Minister David Cameron said he would attend Tuesday’s memorial service at the soccer stadium.
There was no immediate confirmation of news reports that the mourners would include Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Robert G. Mugabe of Zimbabwe. South African authorities said President François Hollande of France would attend.
Delegations from Benin, Canada, Chad, China, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, and Senegal were expected to land at Waterkloof air force base in Pretoria, the capital, on Monday.
President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan had departed for South Africa, and a small delegation from New Zealand led by Prime Minister John Key was also on its way, according to the South African Government News Agency.
Cuban leader Raúl Castro planned to attend, the government news service said.
“The fact that international leaders are making their way to South Africa at such short notice reflects the special place President Mandela holds in the hearts of people around the globe,” Collins Chabane, a government minister in the presidency, said Sunday.
The choice of the FNB stadium is both pragmatic and symbolic. It lies in Soweto, the onetime segregated township where riots, protests, and bloodletting in 1976 hastened the unraveling of apartheid while Mandela was in prison. He was released in 1990 and became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
In more practical terms, the stadium has an official capacity of more than 94,000, offering space for mourners. In his last public appearance in the final stages of the 2010 World Cup, Mandela briefly appeared at the stadium seated in a golf cart.
A more recent glimpse of him for most South Africans came in a heavily choreographed and controversial video in April showing him looking frail during a private visit by President Jacob G. Zuma and some family members.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said Monday that around 70 heads of state and government planned to attend the memorial Tuesday or the state funeral Sunday.
The government said the ceremony in the FNB stadium would rank “among the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history.”
The predicted turnout was similar to the tally of notables who attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005, when the presence of 70 such figures was described as an unprecedented gathering of power for a papal funeral.