People refuse to leave park-and-ride facilities

2013-12-13 13:41
A woman cries after paying her respects to South African former president Nelson Mandela on the last day of Mandela's lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Alexander Joe, AFP)

A woman cries after paying her respects to South African former president Nelson Mandela on the last day of Mandela's lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Alexander Joe, AFP)

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Johannesburg - Police were sent to park-and-ride facilities in Pretoria on Friday afternoon after members of the public refused to leave, despite transport to the Union Buildings being shut down.

"There is no way they can tell us it is closed at Union Buildings for the day... I saw the news, viewing of Mandela is [until]... 5pm. It's not even lunchtime now," said Elias Kekana from Atteridgeville, who had been waiting at the park-and-ride facility at the Pretoria Showgrounds.

"What they are doing is not right; they should at least let old people go see him," said Thabo Mphaka, 68, who was walking on crutches.

Thousands of people, waiting at the showgrounds to be taken to view former president Nelson Mandela's body lying in state at the seat of government, pointed umbrellas and fingers at metro police when told the number of people able to be accommodated at the venue had reached capacity.

A metro police officer at the gate said they had to let the gate remain open, after crowds pushed through it when they tried to close it an hour earlier, before 13:00.

"We tried telling them this park-and-ride is closed, but they won't listen," said another metro policeman stationed at the showgrounds.

Six police cars arrived at the venue in the early afternoon.

As some of the crowd decided to make the 10km trek to the Union Buildings on foot, they sang struggle songs, while vendors continued to sell Mandela memorabilia and food outside the facility.

Meanwhile, at the Union Buildings, streams of people were still arriving to view the struggle icon's body.

Final day

This despite a request by government communication services for members of the public not to go to the Union Buildings.

"Any additional numbers will make it physically impossible for people to be safely transported to the Union Buildings and get the opportunity to file past the body," said acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams in a statement.

"We cannot guarantee that every person who is presently in the queues at the various centres will be given access to the Union Buildings."

Williams said that by 07:30, 25 000 people had gathered at the Pretoria Showgrounds park-and-ride, 10 000 at the Fountains Valley Circle, 8000 at the Union Buildings, and 7000 at the LC de Villiers Sports Centre.

She said between 12 000 to 14 000 people had viewed Mandela's body on Wednesday and two people had passed the coffin every second on Thursday.

Friday is the third and final day in which Mandela's body will lie in state. Thereafter it will be transported to Qunu, where a state funeral will take place on Sunday in the rural area in which Mandela spent much of his childhood.

He died last Thursday at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, at the age of 95.


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