Pretoria - Nelson Mandela's family gathered around his open casket on Wednesday, marking the beginning of three days in which the former president will lie in state.
Mandela's coffin was placed inside the cavernous amphitheatre of Union Buildings on a cubic platform.
Two military officers clad in white dress uniform stood guard at each entrance with swords pointing downward.
His coffin was carried up the steps toward the towering acropolis of beige freestone, trailed by Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela.
His manifest grief was a poignant reminder that while the nation lost a hero, Mandela's family lost a father, grandfather and husband.
After the family had paid their respects, Mandla sat inside ready to receive presidents, celebrities and other dignitaries.
World leaders are expected to pay their final respects.
Earlier, prison wardens and waving members of the public lined the streets of Pretoria as the funeral cortege slowly moved along a symbolic route through the capital.
The hearse, led by motorcycle outriders, was taken past Pretoria Central Prison where Mandela was held in 1962 for incitement and leaving South Africa illegally.
It also passed the Pretoria High Court, where Mandela stood trial for treason and sabotage and made his now legendary pledge, in April 1964, that he was prepared to die for the ideal of a non-racial society.
Mandela will lie in state for three days, and the procession will be repeated every morning as the military bring his coffin from 1 Military Hospital to the Union Buildings, where he was sworn in as the country's first democratic president almost 20 years ago.
On Madiba Street, a small group of people formed a guard of honour as helicopters hovered overhead.
Some pedestrians paused before hurrying along to work. while others briefly left their office buildings for a glance at the cortege.
Law enforcement will be heightened over the three days at the Union Buildings, Tshwane metro police said.
“We have previously said we will be ready, and indeed we are. There are no incidents that have been reported so far. We are in a funeral environment, you can see I am not even carrying my firearm,” Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said.
He commended the behaviour of the people coming to view Madiba's body.
“Everyone is free to join us here, but I am not saying we are relaxed as police officers. In case of any eventuality, we are ready to deal with it.”
He said the Tshwane metro police were being helped by the SA Police Service, Gauteng traffic police, and several other agencies.
“Systems are in place for crime prevention. We are happy with the behaviour of the community up until this far. There is no riot or anything of that sort from the crowd.”
Meanwhile women were suntanning on a lawn at the Hatfield park and ride centre in Pretoria while waiting for transport to the Union Buildings.
Posters bearing the image of Mandela's face were handed out to some of the more than 100 people waiting at the centre. - Sapa and AFP