Mandela burial a private 'family matter': Official

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africans will not be able to see Nelson Mandela's remains being laid to rest, with his actual burial a strictly private, family affair, a government spokeswoman said on Friday.

At least 5,000 people, including foreign dignitaries and senior political figures, are expected to attend Sunday's funeral ceremony in Mandela's boyhood home Qunu.

Once the initial public service has been completed, however, the moment of interment will, at the family's request, be a purely private affair, spokeswoman Phumla Williams said.

"The family has indicated they want to make the burial a family matter," Williams said.

"They don't want it to be televised. They don't want people to see when the body is taken down." After three days of lying in state in the capital Pretoria, Mandela's casket will be flown to Qunu early on Saturday morning.

A special stage and marquee have been erected for the two-hour public funeral service which begins at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) on Sunday.

As of Thursday evening, 3,000 members of the media had already descended on the remote site in the Eastern Cape.