Final public viewing of Madiba underway

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Mandla Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, follows Mandela's coffin as it is carried on the last day of lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Photo: Alexander Joe

Pretoria - The coffin of former president Nelson Mandela has been placed in position for the third and final day in which his body will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday.

Stark silence marked the moment as military personnel stood to attention, along with ordinary South Africans queuing for their chance to pay their final respects.

A military band played the national anthem shortly after the hearse carrying the coffin arrived.

Mandela's grandson, Mandla Mandela, who had been travelling in the hearse, stood on the side and softly mouthed the words to the anthem as the band played.

Mandla, dressed in black, has accompanied the body every day since Wednesday.

According to AbaThembu tradition, a male adult family member must remain with the body until burial.

Military officials then removed the coffin from the hearse and carried it to the structure in which it was laid for public viewing.

Helicopters circled above as mounted police officers arrived.

The hearse was part of a motorcade of some 40 vehicles that arrived at about 7.45am at the Pretoria seat of government, where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first democratically elected president almost 20 years ago.

Queues of people - waiting to view his body - shouted “President Mandela” and “Madiba” as his hearse passed them in the streets of Pretoria.

Kopane Phallane, an employee at a car dealership in Vermeulen Street, Arcadia, arrives at work at 5am every day and plays hymns on his car sound system for mourners forming a public guard of honour for Mandela.

Singer Tshepo Tshola's “Ho lokile” (It is well) hymn echoed along the street, with some police officers moving their heads slowly in rhythm as the hymn played.

“I have been playing this specific hymn since Wednesday morning. We say 'it is well' to God and thanks for borrowing us Mandela,” said the car salesman from Atteridgeville.

His colleagues gathered next to his car and sang along to the song.

“It has been like this here for the past three days, we start work at 8am, just minutes after the coffin drives by.”

Passers-by on their way to queue for transport to view Mandela's body stopped for a few minutes to join in the singing before continuing on their journey.

Long queues had already formed just two streets away at the corner of Vermuelen and Hamilton streets.

Emily Sebata and her friend Lucy Mbonambi, dressed in black, came from Vosloorus on the East Rand. They had been queuing since 4am.

“This is the last day to see Mandela, there is no other place I would rather be. I am dressed in black and mourning my hero,” said Mbonambi.

The public can view the body from 8am to 5.30pm.

The City of Tshwane said over 20 000 people queued on Thursday for a chance to pay their last respects to Mandela.

Government communication services put the number of attendees at 12 000 to 14 000 for Wednesday, the first day in which Mandela lay in state.

Several memorial services will take place throughout the country on Friday to honour the former president.

Venues include Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Delft Sports Stadium in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Stadium in East London, and an as yet unconfirmed venue in Kimberley.

His body will be taken to the Eastern Cape on Saturday. He will be buried in a state funeral on Sunday in Qunu, where he spent much of his childhood. - Sapa

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