Madiba would be proud of us - SANDF

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Copy of IOL MANDELA-_1213_11

REUTERS

Navy officers stand guard near the coffin of former president Nelson Mandela on the last day of Mandela's lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Alexander Joe

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela would be proud of the way the SA National Defence Force conducted itself during the lying in state of his body in Pretoria, spokesman Lt-Gen Xolani Mabanga said on Friday.

“It has been a great task, demanding in nature, but I think under the circumstances, members of the SANDF have worked with discipline and diligence,” he said.

“Wherever Tata is... He will say this is the force I established post-1994. He will smile and give himself a tap on the shoulder.”

Mabanga said from the deep divisions of apartheid, under Mandela's leadership, the SANDF had found ways to reconcile.

“We were not told to... but we agreed that we will put aside our differences and make a formidable force for the Republic of South Africa.

Defence force members have been instrumental in establishing the necessary decorum during the three days in which Mandela's body has lain in state.

They have led the motorcade in which his coffin has been transported from One Military Hospital to the Union Buildings.

The army band has played the anthem each time Mandela's coffin has been removed from the hearse.

Guards have kept watch over his coffin and a number of military parades have been conducted at the seat of government.

When given a chance to view the body, army personnel filed past, solemnly saluting.

Mabanga said beneath their professional exterior, the SANDF members were comforting each other.

“They do talk among themselves; they do express their feelings; they do encourage one another. They discuss or draw lessons from whatever is being said about Tata Mandela.”

He said the top officials were grateful for the conduct of the general force.

“Having known and understood the job carries a lot of emotion, they have remained committed and calm in order to help and work with everyone to ensure this event is a success.”

On Friday, the presidency announced that President Jacob Zuma had authorised the employment of 11 894 SANDF members for the various events that have and will take place during the period of mourning from December 6 until after the state funeral - until December 20.

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

Friday is the third and final day his body will lie in state.

On Saturday his body will be transported to the Eastern Cape, ahead of a state funeral scheduled to take place on Sunday in Qunu, where Mandela spent much of his childhood.

Sapa


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