Sombre atmosphere at Union Buildings

2013-12-13 10:45
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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Pretoria - A sombre atmosphere prevailed at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday as thousands of people viewed the body of former president Nelson Mandela lying in state for the third and final day.

Many police officers, soldiers and correctional services staff joined members of the public passing through the giant marquee to view Madiba's remains.

The state employees saluted as they marched past the glass-topped casket of the first democratically elected president and commander-in-chief of the SA National Defence Force.

The long queue filed through smoothly, with mourners moving continuously and not pausing at the casket.

Police and military helicopters hovered above the Union Buildings.

Several elderly people, many dressed in traditional outfits, as well as young children, were among the people viewing the body.

Mandela's grandson Mandla stood to the side of the structure where the body lay. Dressed in black, he contrasted sharply with the elaborate white floral displays beside him.

Earlier, he softly mouthed the words of the national anthem as a military band played. He has remained with his grandfather's body every day.

Long queues

According to AbaThembu tradition, an adult male family member must remain with the body until burial.

The public can view the body from 8am to 5.30pm.

Long queues have marked the previous two days as tens of thousands of South Africans gathered to say their final farewell.

The City of Tshwane said over 20 000 people arrived at the Union Buildings on Thursday, and park-and-ride facilities were shut down early after the venues reached capacity.

Government communication services put attendance figures at 12 000 to 14 000 for Wednesday, the first day in which Mandela lay in state.

On Friday, several memorial services will take place throughout the country to honour the former president.

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

His body will be taken to the Eastern Cape on Saturday. He will be buried in a state funeral on Sunday in Qunu, where he spent much of his childhood.

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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