Johannesburg (CNN) — For the Xhosa people of South Africa, death is traditionally not something to be talked about or to be planned for, no matter how inevitable or close it may seem.
But those close to Nelson Mandela had little choice as the country’s first black leader lay in a Pretoria hospital and then at home in Johannesburg on life support.
In the final years of his life, secret plans were hammered out between the government, the military and his family as they prepared for a fitting farewell for a great man.
Below is a breakdown of how those plans will unfold over the next 10 days, culminating in a state funeral to be broadcast to millions worldwide and a very private farewell for those closest to him.
As is often the case with events of this magnitude, plans might change due to weather, security and other factors. But for now, this is what the authorities and the family hope will happen.
According to multiple sources involved with the planning of the final farewell to the South African icon, the 10 days of mourning will combine both Western traditions and those of the Thembu, Mandela’s native clan.
Day 1 to Day 4
Mandela passed away at 8.50 p.m. Thursday (1.50 p.m. ET), surrounded by his family, South African President Jacob Zuma said. CNN understands that during his final hours, Mandela would have also been surrounded by Thembu elders. Importantly, at some stage – either at his home or in the mortuary – the traditional leaders will gather for a first ceremony, a tradition called “the closing of the eyes.”
Throughout the ceremony, they’ll be talking to Mandela, as well as to his tribal ancestors, to explain what’s happening at each and every stage to ease the transition from life to beyond.
After the ceremony, it’s believed Mandela’s body will be embalmed at the mortuary, which is understood to be a military hospital in Pretoria.