Heartbroken mourners bid Mandela farewell

2013-12-12 18:00
People queue for busses before heading to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Picture: AP)

People queue for busses before heading to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Picture: AP)

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Pretoria - Having flown in from Australia to bid farewell to Nelson Mandela, Graham Jacobs walked out of the Union Buildings with tears streaming down his face.

Accompanied by his friend Fernanda Jonas, who held on tightly to his hand, both said how "heartbroken and sad" they were.

Jacobs arrived from Australia on Monday and leaves on Wednesday.

"I needed some release. I couldn't spend my life not coming back here to pay my respect to our greatest hero," he said weeping, struggling to utter a word.

He left South Africa as a young boy.

"I felt love when I saw him lying there. It was both joyful and sad, but I know that asking for him to live would be asking for the impossible. His quality of life left a long time ago."

Thousands arrived on Thursday for the second day of Mandela's lying in state.

Bibicha Mathondo, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, currently a resident of Tshwane, said it was all about respect.

"I had to show some respect. This is how we look when we go to funerals. This is Tata Madiba after all," said Mathondo, who downplayed her long, six-hour wait in black, high-heeled shoes.

Dress code

Most mourners were more cautious about their dress code after Wednesday's call to dress appropriately.

Women wore skirts, doeks, and shawls over their shoulders.

While no one was turned away, police who stood managing the queue near the coffin looked to see whether people were better dressed.

Women were asked to cover their shoulders or to wrap something around their waists if they wore trousers.

For youngsters in their 20s, like Palesa Khambule and Carmel Mukandila, it was the first time they had been this close to the Mandela.

They had been waiting since 03:00.

"It took my breath away. My heart was beating so fast, and I couldn't help but cry. He is lying there with such grace. He is peaceful," Khambule said.

By noon, official figures of the number of people who braved the heat to line the streets in Pretoria stood at more than 20 000.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the council was managing confusion and delays in busing people to the Union Buildings.

Currently, 80 buses were being used to ferry mourners. Bokaba said the number could increase.

Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.

- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.

- SAPA

Read more on:    nelson mandela
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