Mandela’s body leaves Union Buildings

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iol news pic Mandela funeral cortege

REUTERS

Military outriders escort the funeral cortege carrying the coffin of former South African president Nelson Mandela through a street of Pretoria. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Pretoria -

Former president Nelson Mandela's body left the Union Buildings at 5.47pm on Thursday to return to 1 Military Hospital for the night.

Friday will be the last day Mandela's body lies in state at the Union Buildings.

At 5.20pm on Thursday, a military marching band played and soldiers lined up near the cortege as a wind lifted the national flag, flying at half mast in a symbol of national mourning.

Before the convoy moved off, amid blaring sirens, lightning flashed and a soft rain started falling over the Union Buildings. Soldiers and police saluted and the national anthem was played.

The vehicle carrying Mandela's coffin, draped with a South African flag, was escorted by police on motorbikes. A helicopter flew low overhead.

On Stanza Bopape street, near the Union Buildings, some people sang “dubula dubula” (shoot, shoot).

Thousands of people queued from before dawn on Thursday for a chance to pay their last respects to Mandela on the second day of his lying in state at the seat of government, where he was sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president almost 20 years ago.

The City of Tshwane said over 20 000 people queued on Thursday.

The park-and-ride facilities for the public viewing closed shortly after 3pm, after reaching full capacity.

Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last Thursday at the age of 95. His body will be taken to the Eastern Cape on Saturday. He will be laid to rest in a state funeral on Sunday in Qunu, where he spent much of his childhood. - Sapa


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