Symbolic landmarks for Madiba's journey

2013-12-11 10:19
The procession for former president Nelson Mandela makes its way through the streets of Pretoria. (File, AP)

The procession for former president Nelson Mandela makes its way through the streets of Pretoria. (File, AP)

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Pretoria - Nelson Mandela's flag-draped casket made a solemn journey laden with symbolism and replete with landmarks that carry resonance with his life.

A black hearse phalanxed by 16 motorcycle outriders rolled out of the city's 1 Military Hospital onto streets lined with flag-waving South Africans who formed a public guard of honour.

The cortege travelled briskly, arriving less than an hour later at Union Buildings, the seat of South African government.

The procession passed the central prison where he was jailed in 1962 for incitement and leaving the country illegally.

Another landmark is the Palace of Justice, the court where Mandela famously stood trial in 1963-64 for treason and sabotage with 10 other co-defendants.

His conviction and subsequent life sentence marked the beginning of a 27-year jail stint, from which he finally emerged in 1990 as the structure of apartheid crumbled around its white minority supporters.

The cortege also passed near the one-time home of Paul Kruger, the father of the Afrikaner nation.

"Oom [Uncle] Paul" was the president of the Transvaal, leading a resistance movement against British rule during the first Anglo-Boer War, which began in 1880.

That Afrikaner nationalism later morphed into support for the National Party, which introduced apartheid.

Open coffin

The coffin was unloaded by eight pallbearers representing the branches of the armed forces in full uniform.

From there it was carried up the steps toward the towering acropolis of beige freestone, where nearly two decades ago Mandela was sworn in as the country's first black president, signifying the rebirth of this long-troubled nation.

Trailing behind the coffin was Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, his manifest grief a poignant reminder that while the nation lost a hero, Mandela's family lost a father, grandfather and husband.

Mandela's open coffin was placed on a cubic platform in the building's amphitheatre, soon to be renamed in his honour, where it he will viewed by family, heads of state, celebrities and the general public for three days.

Two military officers clad in white dress uniform stood guard at each entrance with swords pointing downward.

The funeral procession will be repeated for three days, ending each time at the Union Buildings - the seat of government where previous presidents had signed aspects of the apartheid system into law.

The public will be allowed to view the casket each afternoon, before Mandela's body is transported to his boyhood home of Qunu in the Eastern Cape for its eventual burial on Sunday.

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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