Mourners Overwhelm Mandela’s Lying In State On Last Day

A woman cries after paying her respects at the coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela, as Mandela lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria December 12, 2013.
A woman cries after paying her respects at the coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela, as Mandela lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria December 12, 2013.

Mourners flocked in their tens of thousands to South Africa’s central government buildings on Friday to say a personal goodbye to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on the final day of his lying in state in Pretoria.

Such was the crush of people wanting to see Mandela’s body in the Union Buildings, that the government asked others to stay away from the park-and-ride facilities set up to take mourners to the area.

“We cannot guarantee that every person who is presently in the queues at the various centres will be given access to the Union Buildings,” the government said in a statement. The park-and-ride points had 50,000 people waiting by 0530 GMT.

Long queues of mourners wait catch a bus on Thursday to view the body of ex-President Nelson Mandela, a scene reminiscent of that in 1994 when voters queued in Soweto for the first multiracial elections.
Long queues of mourners wait catch a bus on Thursday to view the body of ex-President Nelson Mandela, a scene reminiscent of that in 1994 when voters queued in Soweto for the first multiracial elections.

Winding queues snaked for kilometres (miles) from the government site perched on a hill overlooking the city, well into the heart of the capital.

The body of South Africa’s first black president was lying in state for a third and final day before being flown on Saturday to the Eastern Cape for a funeral on Sunday at his ancestral home in Qunu, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg. Mandela died last week aged 95.

“I don’t mind waiting, today is the last day and I must say thank you. I am who I am and where I am because of this man,” said Johannesburg resident Elsie Nkuna, who said she had taken two days off work to see Mandela.

Filing past the coffin, some pausing to bow, mourners viewed the body laid out in a green and gold batik shirt, a style that he wore and had made famous. His face was visible.

On Friday, his grandchild Mandla sat beside the coffin, acknowledging mourners with smiles.

In the heat of the South African summer, army chaplains and medics handed out bottles of water and sachets of tissues.

Reuters

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