Madiba hearse arrives Waterkloof

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The funeral cortege carrying the coffin of Nelson Mandela leaves the 1 Military Hospital before being flown to the Eastern Cape province for a funeral on Sunday at his ancestral home in Qunu. Photo: Thomas Mukoya

Pretoria - The hearse carrying the body of former president Nelson Mandela arrived at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria early on Saturday morning.

Earlier, a sombre-looking Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - Mandela's ex-wife - accompanied by several relatives, arrived at the airbase from where Mandela's body will be transported to the Eastern Cape ahead of his state funeral in Qunu on Sunday.

ANC officials and members, many dressed in party colours, sang and danced in a hangar, where a stage had been set up.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, ANC stalwart Frene Ginwala, and former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride were among those present at the airbase, as were US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and TV personality Dali Tambo.

According to the programme for the send-off ceremony, President Jacob Zuma will address the crowd and the Mandela family will give a vote of thanks.

Representatives of the Congress of Sa Trade Unions, the SA Communist Party, and the SA National Civic Organisation will also speak.

Mandela's favourite poem “Invictus” was printed on the back of the programme.

The stage for the ceremony was lined with flowers and parachute material was draped across the ceiling.

Government said on Friday the SA National Defence Force was expected to hand over Mandela's body to the ANC at 7am.

The SANDF would again take over at 9am for the send-off ceremony and departure from the base. - Sapa

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