Nelson Mandela arrives in Ottawa today for a two-day state visit. He'll be given a special honour on his first, and what will likely be his last visit as president of South Africa.

Mandela will be giving a speech to a joint session of the Commons and the Senate. And he'll become the first foreigner to be given an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada at a ceremony at Rideau Hall.

The 80-year-old statesman first visited Canada in 1990, before he was elected president and just after he left prison. In a speech to the United Nations this week, Mandela talked of his plan to leave office after elections next spring.

He also spoke of returning to his home village of Qunu to rest after a turbulent life. Mandela spent much of his life in a struggle against the white-minority government in South Africa.

That struggle ended when free, multi-racial elections were held to give the country its current black majority government.