He was our father, say Madiba mourners

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Mourners queue outside the Union Buildings where the coffin of former president Nelson Mandela was laying in state in Pretoria. Photo: Yves Herman

Pretoria - People gathered outside 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria on Thursday morning, paying tribute to former president Nelson Mandela for fostering democracy.

Most described Madiba as the father of the nation who sacrificed personal gain for the good of the nation.

“If it were not for Madiba, maybe I would still be discriminated [against] at work.

“Life has changed dramatically from what it used to be under the racial apartheid rule,” said Jessica Tome.

“South Africa has significant freedoms compared to other African states. We appreciate the role played by Madiba and his colleagues in bringing equality and freedom,” she said.

Tome joined a small group of people lining Voortrekker Road to watch the procession bearing Mandela's body to the Union Buildings where he will lie in state for the second day.

Ina Scheepers said Mandela's death had left a significant void in leadership.

“He was a father to all South Africans, unlike some divisive leaders we have now. There will only be one Mandela in our history,” said Scheepers, from Centurion.

Mandela's coffin was carried into the Union Buildings in Pretoria just before 8am.

Military officials carried the coffin as grandson Mandla Mandela and a woman wearing the colours of the African National Congress draped over her shoulders walked behind.

At one point he closed his eyes with a pained look on his face.

Military personnel and police officers, as well as members of the public, stood in complete silence as the coffin passed by.

SA National Defence Force members will be the first allowed in to view the body lying in state for the second day on Thursday.

The motorcade transporting the coffin arrived at the Union Buildings at 7.45am.

Police saluted Mandela's arrival and military officials formed a guard of honour at the stairs of the building.

The hazard lights of the hearse blinked on and off and a military band played the national anthem as the coffin draped in the South African flag was removed from the vehicle.

Military pall bearers carried him up the steps slowly to where he will lie in state.

Helicopters circled overhead, and a large convoy of army vehicles, as well as busses - carrying the public - were all in the vicinity.

Army, navy, airforce, and police personnel lined up at the Union Buildings.

A military band stood in front of the amphitheatre which is the site where Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of the country in 1994.

More than 20 vehicles accompanied the hearse transporting Madiba's body, while Oryx military helicopters hovered overhead.

Members of the public outside the hospital sang struggle songs and waved as they spotted the casket covered in the South African flag. Many people took photographs of the convoy with their cellphones.

Mandela's body will lie in state until Friday.

People can view the body from 8am to 5.30pm. - Sapa

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