Scenes of grief at Mandela's coffin

2013-12-12 12:12
A mourner overcome with grief is assisted by military personnel after paying her respects to Nelson Mandela during the lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (File, AP)

A mourner overcome with grief is assisted by military personnel after paying her respects to Nelson Mandela during the lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (File, AP)

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Pretoria - South Africans wept and spoke of their deep grief as thousands queued for a second day to visit Nelson Mandela's open coffin at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday.

They queued from before dawn at key points in the capital that has all but come to a halt as Mandela lay in state for a second day at the seat of government where he was sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president almost 20 years ago.

Among those who filed past the coffin was correctional services officer Abigail Zuma, who said seeing Mandela's remains had made his death last Thursday a reality.

"I feel fulfilled but very emotional. I saw him and I'm happy that he's resting peacefully. I feel I am part of history," she said.

Her correctional services colleague Norman Tshivhase said viewing the body was difficult but made him accept that the man South Africans claimed not only as a hero but a father had died.

"It was bad to see my leader, my real comrade, lying down like that. I got closure," said Tshivhase, wearing a red SA Communist Party cap and T-shirt.

Watching solemly

Foreign dignitaries, among them Cuban President Raul Castro, paid their respects along with South Africans of all races and walks of life in a snapshot of the "rainbow" nation Mandela first evoked when he was sworn in as president.

Some voiced the political discontent that has spilled into the open since Mandela's death and saw President Jacob Zuma heckled repeatedly in front of almost 100 world leaders at Mandela's official memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.

Ina Scheepers from Centurion said Mandela's death had left a significant void which the country's present leaders could not fill. "He was a father to all South Africans, unlike some divisive leaders we have now. There will only be one Mandela in our history."

For a second morning on Thursday, Mandela's cortege slowly made its way from One Military Hospital with military vehicles following the hearse and hundreds of people lining streets to sing struggle songs and wave farewell.

Outside the hospital, Georgina Mudau said she had travelled from Limpopo to pay her respects.

"When the sun rises today we will say goodbye and remember him. Mr Mandela was the king of Africa."

At the Union Buildings Mandela's grandson Mandla, for a second day, stood watching solemnly a short distance from the coffin which showed Mandela clad in one of his famous gold and black shirts.

On Friday, it will again be transported from One Military Hospital to the hilltop seat of government for a third and final day.

Relatively intimate

The procession follows a route mapped along sites that recall key moments in Mandela's political journey.

It passed Pretoria Central Prison, where Mandela was held in 1962 for incitement and leaving South Africa illegally, and the High Court in Pretoria, where he stood trial for treason and sabotage and made his now legendary pledge, in April 1964, that he was prepared to die for the ideal of a non-racial society.

Not on the route but nearby is the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital where Mandela spent three months earlier this year while well-wishers kept up a constant vigil outside the gates.

On Wednesday, his widow Graca Machel, close family, and President Jacob Zuma were among the first to pay their respects, followed by senior politicians and past presidents, before the public was allowed into the viewing area at the Union Buildings amphitheatre.

By 17:30, hundreds of people still waiting their turn had to be turned away.

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

He will be buried in his boyhood village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday, bringing to a close 10 days of national mourning. The funeral will be relatively intimate, with only about 5000 mourners.

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

- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.


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