11 December 2013
The Mandela family, friends, government ministers and the leaders of countries from across the world filed past the body of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday morning.
Mandela’s body is lying in state at the newly renamed Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, where Madiba was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994. The body is under constant vigil by the national ceremonial guard of the SA National Defence Force.
Wednesday morning’s proceedings included a parade with a gun carriage drawn by soldiers and moment of silence.
The first batch of mourners to pay homage to Madiba, led by President Jacob Zuma, included an emotional Graca Machel, Madiba’s wife, as well as former wife Winnie Madikezela-Mandela, the elder stateman’s children and grandchildren, former President Thabo Mbeki and several government ministers.
Leaders pay last respects
The second batch to file past the body were leaders from across the world. As most world leaders will not attend Mandela’s official state funeral in Qunu on Sunday, it was an opportunity for them to pay their final respects to a man described by US President Barack Obama, in his speech at the memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday, as “the last great liberator of the 20th century”.
Each took their turn in an orderly and dignified manner to either say a prayer at the body or pass by after viewing it.
The leaders included Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Malawian President Joyce Banda, a delegation from the United Arab Emirates, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Mandela’s trusted aide for many years, Zelda la Grange, cut an emotional figure as she walked hand in hand with Irish singer Bono. Anant Singh, who produced the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, was also among those who came to pay their respects.
Route, access, public viewing
Madiba’s body arrived at the Union Buildings just before 8am this morning after travelling in procession from 1 Military Hospital.
The cortege left 1 Military Hospital at 7am, arriving about an hour later at the Union Buildings, where Mandela’s body will lie in state until 5.30pm, in a process to be repeated on Thursday and Friday.
Members of the public have been urged to line the route each day to form a public guard of honour for Mandela. Members of the public will also be able to view the body each day, from midday until 5.30pm on Wednesday, and from 8am to 5.30pm on Friday.
For people wishing to get to the Union Buildings, the City of Tshwane has made park-and-ride facilities available at the Tshwane Events Centre, the LC De Villiers Sports Facility in Hatfield, and the Fountains Valley Park.
Members of the public are urged to make use of these services, as access to the Union Buildings to view Mandela’s body will be restricted to people arriving in city buses only.
Street vendors have been advised that no trading will be allowed on the roads designated for Mandela’s cortege over the next three days. Shop owners along these routes are also advised to temporarily close shop, given the large number of people expected to line the streets.
The procession will leave 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane at 7am on Thursday and Friday, travelling on Old Pretoria Road towards the city, then joining Kgosi Mampuru Road until its intersection with Madiba Street, then proceeding east along Madiba Street towards the Union Buildings.