JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa expects overwhelming crowds and a host of world leaders to attend services honoring late President Nelson Mandela, though with the ceremonies only days away officials acknowledged Saturday they couldn't offer any specifics yet.
Across the country, South Africans already have begun honoring Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95, and officials expect tens of thousands to participate in this week's official services.
In their first statement since Mandela's death, his family said they had "lost a great man," just as they had when South Africa's apartheid government imprisoned him for decades.
"The pillar of our family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us," said the statement, read by family spokesman Lt. Gen. Themba Templeton Matanzima.
"His spirit endures. As a family we commit ourselves to uphold and be guided by the values he lived for and was prepared to die for," he said.
Official services honoring Mandela begin Tuesday with a major memorial planned at FNB Stadium on the edge of Johannesburg's Soweto township. Government Minister Collins Chabane told journalists Saturday he expects massive crowds far beyond what the stadium's normal 95,000-person capacity could hold. He said there would be "overflow" areas set up.
"We can't tell people not to come," he said.
He couldn't offer specifics about how crowds would arrive there with all roads to the venue closed by police or who would serve as a master of ceremonies.