Mandela: Park and ride to Union Buildings shuts early amid overwhelming response

2013-12-12 15:59

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An estimated 14 000 people made their way to the Union Buildings to view the late Nelson Mandela’s body lying in state yesterday and thousands more arrived today.

Such has been the public response that government said it was forced to shut its park-and-ride facilities around the city earlier than expected today. This disappointed many mourners who were still standing in long queues around the Union Buildings.

There were mixed emotions from mourners today as the outpouring of love, grief and celebration continued.

Many people answered the call from government to dress in black as the colour of mourning.

Mandela’s cousin, General Thanduxolo Mandela, said it was “a fitting tribute” that many people were viewing Mandela’s body where he had taken the oath of office in 1994, ushering South Africa into a new dawn of democracy.

While many mourners could not contain their grief, briefly slumping to their knees in tears, others were more composed as they filed by the viewing deck at the seat of government in Pretoria.

Nyameko Lusu (33) from Craigavon in Fourways, Joburg, was among them.

Lusu, a forex dealer at Absa Capital, met Mandela twice when he was 10 years old.

Lusu spoke fondly about the “tall and charming” man he was introduced to by his father, Welsh Lusu, who was Mandela’s friend, in 1990 at eNkulekweni royal house in the Eastern Cape.

A few months later, Lusu saw Mandela at the airport and the late statesman remembered meeting him earlier.

“He remembered our first meeting. That’s how great this man’s memory was. I wanted to see him for closure and to pay my last respects in my late father’s memory. Madiba was the last of the generation of the elders and, as young South Africans, we need to contribute to our society because there’s no point in complaining about a leadership vacuum if we’re not helping shape society,” said Lusu, who had also been to Mandela’s Houghton home to honour Madiba.

Tabby Tsengiwe, a corporate communications manager from Midrand, said viewing Mandela’s body gave her “a sense of closure, satisfaction and peace”.

“There’s peace in death because his job is now done and we must let him go. We must just pray for his family to have strength. More often than not, we forget about the suffering of family members left behind who have generously shared their father with the whole world,” said Tsengiwe.

Teresa Mbewe (46) brought her daughter, Sarah Molala, and friend Nancy Ngomane. They began their journey at 2am from Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, to the Union Buildings

They had prepared their black dresses before going to bed last night.

“He was more than a king. He was a liberator. We dressed in black because this is the colour of mourning. We need to show him respect,” said Mbewe.

Mbewe said she was overcome with emotion when she saw Mandela’s body.

“I still felt a connection with him. I felt the love that he showed us. Everybody knows how much he loved his people, especially children. I hope we can all continue to show that love for one another,” said Mbewe.

Molala (21), a human resources student at the Tshwane University of Technology, urged South Africans to “stop pointing fingers when things go wrong and start playing our part”.

The best way to remember Mandela was to help everyone in the country prosper.

“Young people are rightfully disillusioned because they can’t find jobs, even when they studied for their degrees. We need to change this country for him,” said Molala, adding that she wished she had more time to view Madiba at the Union Buildings.

Government spokesperson Phumla Williams said they were still determining the number of people who had viewed Mandela’s body today.

“Government appreciates the overwhelming response from the public to pay homage to Tata Madiba. However, it is a reality that there are limits on the number of hours for which the body of the president can be viewed and, therefore, the number of people who can visit the Union Buildings daily,” said Williams.

She urged the public to arrive “as early as possible” at the park-and-ride facilities tomorrow morning, the last day the public can view Mandela’s body before it is transported to his hometown of Qunu for burial on Sunday.

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