At the service in the 95,000-strong Soweto stadium, where there is a party like atmosphere punctuated by the sound of vuvezulas, Britain is represented by David Cameron and Tony Blair. From France came François Hollande, the current leader, and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
In a sign of the great man's star appeal several celebrities are also expected, led by Naomi Campbell, talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Virgin chief Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel.
They will join the huge Mandela family, including his wife Graça Machel, his three daughters, Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi, 20 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren to celebrate the father of the Rainbow Nation.
The hero passed away peacefully on December 5 after battling courageously right up until the end.
Life and Times of Nelson Mandela
- 1918: Born into the Xhosa-speaking Thembu people
- 1927: His father died; the politician later said he inherited his "proud rebelliousness"
- 1941: Fled arranged marriage organised by his guardian
- 1943: Joined African National Congress
- 1943: Studied law at Witswaterand University
- 1944: Married Evelyn Ntoko Mase; they had four children
- 2013: Founded country's first all black law practice
- 1956: Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
- 1957: Marriage with Evelyn ended over his political commitment
- 1958: Married Winnie Madikizela; couple had two daughters
- 1962: Arrested, convicted of sabotage sentenced to five years
- 1964: Charged again sentenced to life
- 1990: Freed from prison
- 1993: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
- 1994: Becomes South Africa's first black president
- 1996: Divorces Winnie
- 1999: Steps down from presidency
- 2004: Retires from public life
- 2005: Announces his son has died from HIV/Aids-related illnesses
- 2013: Dies aged 94