Mthatha welcomes Madiba cortege

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Townsmen line the streets as a military policeman escorts a hearse containing the flag draped coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela through the center of Mthatha, South Africa on December 14, 2013. Mandela will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, his ancestral home in the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape province.

Mthatha - Cheering and cathedral bells greeted the procession bearing former president Nelson Mandela's coffin in Mthatha on Saturday afternoon.

At 3pm the procession made its way past the intersection of York Street and Nelson Mandela Drive as people lining the streets sang and excitedly snapped photographs.

As the procession, led by military outriders, drove by, people began running after it on the sides of the road.

Two military helicopters and a police helicopter hovered above.

Soldiers shouted at members of the media to stand back from the road.

When the procession had passed, the crowd began to disperse.

The cortege set off from Mthatha Airport shortly before 2.30pm.

The aircraft that flew the coffin from Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria, landed there earlier.

The cortege was expected to drive through the streets of Mthatha before being taken to Qunu, about 31km away.

Mandela will be buried in Qunu, where he spent much of his childhood, on Sunday.

He died at his Houghton, Johannesburg, home last Thursday at the age of 95. - Sapa

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