Pretoria - A handful of people waited in Madiba Street near the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday morning for the procession bearing former president Nelson Mandela's body.
Mario Merola, 33, said he felt he had to attend to say goodbye to South Africa's first democratic president.
“I met Mandela about seven times, from when he got out of jail in 1990 to when I was 18. Each one is etched in my memory.”
He recalled one memorable day when Madiba visited his uncle's home and took time to speak to each family member.
“He wanted to know about my education,” Merola said.
He said Mandela had signed his copy of Long Walk to Freedom with the inscription “To Mario, one of our future leaders”.
Since Mandela's death on Thursday evening, Merola said he had felt a “subdued sense of celebration” of the life of Mandela.
“The crying hasn't come yet, maybe today,” he said, gazing at the military guard of honour behind large metal barricades.
Jana Nortman was watching preparations for the procession with her colleague Alida Nel outside their offices.
Both expressed their “tremendous respect” for Mandela.
“He showed us how to be free, and to accept each other the way they are,” Nel said.
Nortman said she would remember this day of bidding farewell to the father of the nation forever.
Hundreds of police and soldiers were stationed outside the Union Buildings.
Soldiers disembarked from buses in front of the Union Buildings lawns and chatted in groups before assembling smartly in neat rows to await the procession.
Police cars of various descriptions, military lorries, and even tanks were visible near the Union Buildings.
Mandela will lie in state for the next three days in Pretoria this week.
The public are allowed to view the body from noon on Wednesday, but only if they use the park and ride facilities provided.
President Jacob Zuma and various dignitaries are expected to pay their respects to Mandela before the public are allowed in. - Sapa