South Africans are expected to assemble in churches, mosques and halls on Sunday for a national day of prayer and reflection honoring Nelson Mandela.
The former president and anti-apartheid icon died on Thursday, following a lengthy illness. He was 95.
Mandela family spokesman General Themba Matanzima said Saturday that the past few days had not been easy.
“The pillar of the family is gone,” he said. “Just as he was away during that painful 27 years of imprisonment. But in our hearts and souls he will always be with us. His spirit and yours.”
Organizers say they expect about 9,000 people to attend a public state funeral on December 15, in Mandela’s ancestral village of Qunu.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his role in fighting to end white minority rule and official discrimination against blacks in South Africa.
After his release, he became a symbol of peace and reconciliation and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year, he became South Africa’s first black president.