Nelson Mandela
Nelson MandelaReuters

Tens of thousands have gathered in Johannesburg's FNB stadium to take part in a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The crowds came in spite of the rainy conditions to pay their respect for Mandela, whose defiance of white-minority rule and his incarceration for fighting against segregation focused the world's attention on South Africa's apartheid system, making him a symbol of the struggle for racial equality.

The event is also being attended by world leaders - though controversially not by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who announced on Sunday that he would not be attending the funeral, allegedly due to the high cost of the flight as well as the security considerations involved, which would make it nearly impossible to plan a trip on such short notice.

It is unknown whether Netanyahu is still planning to attend Mandela’s funeral, set for next Sunday.

In 1993, Mandela and then-South African President F.W. de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The iconic leader was elected the nation's first black president a year later, serving only one term, as he had promised.

The former president battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations. Mandela passed away last Thursday at the age of 95, triggering a 10-day period of mourning in South Africa