11 December 2013
There were mixed emotions among the people who lined the route as the hearse bearing the body of Nelson Mandela travelled in procession from 1 Military Hospital to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday morning.
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 at the newly renamed Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, where Madiba was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994.
Public viewing will be open from midday until 5.30pm on Wednesday, and from 8am to 5.30pm on Friday. Mandela will be laid to rest at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.
‘A sense of joy filled me’
Centurion resident Kabelo Gwangwa said seeing the hearse that carried Madiba’s coffin had left him speechless. “I thought I would feel hurt, but I was overcome by emotions and a sense of joy filled me when I witnessed this moment.”
He added that what made him feel better was the thought that it was perhaps time that “we let him go, and we have to accept that he is gone”.
Gwangwa was one of hundreds of Pretoria residents who lined the streets from the early hours of the morning to be part of the event. He left his house at 5am, but only got to the Union Buildings just before 7am due to traffic caused by road closures.
While Bonela Biyongo from Arcadia felt sad when she saw the hearse, Nomsa Montshione from Mamelodi said she was on her way to work and decided to park her car on the side of a busy Pretorius street to rush to the Union Buildings to join the guard of honour.
“For me it was an exciting experience,” Biyongo said. “I am one of the many people who have never seen Madiba with my naked eyes, and I wanted to do this for my son so that I can tell him this story when he gets old.”
And while Abraham Msimang said he was saddened by Madiba’s death, Francisca Lewis said there was cause for celebration, especially considering how far the country had come in the last 19 years of democracy.
“He fought for our liberation, and today we are enjoying the fruits of democracy,” Lewis said.
After the procession passed, crowds began dancing and singing struggle songs on the lawns in front of the Union Buildings.
Route, access, viewing
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.