Mandela family arrives in Mthatha

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Winnie Mandela, ex-wife of Nelson Mandela kisses her granddaughter Ndileka as family members arrive ahead of Mandela's coffin, at the Mthata airport in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko


Mthatha - Members of the Mandela family arrived at Mthatha Airport in the Eastern Cape just before noon on Saturday ahead of the arrival of former president Nelson Mandela's body.

The family stepped off the plane and got into cars parked on the runway.

Mandela's widow Graca Machel was escorted into the terminal by Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Ndileka Mandela, who was holding her arm.

Machel was followed by ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The plane carrying Mandela's coffin left Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria shortly before noon.

Young and old gathered in the streets of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape on Saturday, ahead of the arrival of former president Nelson Mandela's body.

Armed soldiers lined Nelson Mandela Drive, which runs through the centre of the town, watching one group of more than 300 people singing and dancing in adjoining York Street.

The soldiers stopped the singers from entering the main thoroughfare.

Marshals in yellow and orange reflective jackets stood along parts of the route where the crowds were gathered.

People chanted “Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela” and waved small South African flags as they sheltered under colourful umbrellas. Large flags with Mandela's face and the words “N'Tate Madiba our hero forever Nelson Mandela” were being sold for R100 each. Fruit and cold drinks were also on sale. Bananas cost R5 each.

Many people wore yellow and white shirts with an image of Mandela's face.

A few military vehicles accompanied police and traffic officials through the streets of Mthatha as they prepared for Mandela's arrival.

In nearby Qunu, hundreds of people gathered in the streets, lining the route Mandela's coffin was expected to taken along.

Two buses arrived filled with armed soldiers and police officers. - Sapa

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