15 African Heads of State to grace World Cup finale

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pretoria - At least 15 African Heads of State are expected to grace Sunday's World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain and the closing ceremony of the biggest ever football spectacle.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Mozambican President Armando Guebuz, Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Comoros President Ahmed Abdullah Mohamed Sambi, King Letsie of Lesotho, King Mswati of Swaziland are all believed to have confirmed their attendance, to mark the closure of the tournament, the first ever on African soil.

The Presidents of Malawi, Burundi, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso and Djibouti are also expected to be present.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on a state visit to South Africa, as well as delegates from both Spain and the Netherlands, are also expected to attend.

According to International Relations Director General, Ayanda Ntsaluba, many of the Heads of State are also expected to attend the 1Goal Education Summit, to be hosted by President Jacob Zuma and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, ahead of the final match on Sunday.

However, no decision has yet been reached on whether former Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela will attend.

If the 91-year-old statesman does, he would likely be the one handing the trophy to the World Cup winner.

Ntsaluba told a media briefing on Thursday, a further 17 "eminent persons", including former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and Zimbabwean Prime Minsiter Morgan Tsvangirai are expected to be among the dignitaries who will grace the event.

Responding to criticism from some human rights groups surrounding Mugabe's invitation,
Ntsaluba said the Zimbabwean leader was invited as he was a recognised head of the unity government in that country.

"He is the head of the government and is recognised by the United Nations, African Union and SADC...he is not under any sanctions," said Ntsaluba.

Ntsaluba said all logistical arrangements were being finalised for the visiting dignitaries. "All arrangements are being finalised to ensure the successful attendance of the Heads of State and Government and other VIPs to the closing ceremony, including accommodation, seating arrangements, security, transport, logistics and protocol arrangements.

"All our guests and soccer lovers should expect an African feast of all times, and will treasure the memories of this World Cup for many years to come," said Ntsaluba

He said government was encouraged by the success of the tournament, adding that visitors will go back home with "fond memories" of the country.

Spain will take on Netherlands in the final match. Organisers say the closing ceremony to precede it will be "more youthful and a bit more technologically advanced" than the traditionally African ceremony which opened the tournament on 11 June.