Near stampede in Mandela viewing queue

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iol news pic Mandela near stampede


South African Police Service officers control the crowd following a crush as people jostled to see former president Nelson Mandela on the last day of his lying in state in Pretoria. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Pretoria - People almost stampeded at the Tshwane Events Centre park-and-ride facility in Pretoria on Friday when they tried to force their way in as police closed the gates to prevent more people entering.

“I received an instruction from national (police headquarters) that no one should be let in so we closed the gates. People got angry and tried to force their way through... we had to open the gates again to prevent a stampede,” said Colonel Caroline Naidoo, Pretoria West area commander.

A seven-year-old child fell and was almost stood upon by the angry crowd, she said. The child was rescued and did not suffer injuries.

At least 7000 people were still in queues inside the venue waiting for transport to the Union Buildings to see the body of former President Nelson Mandela lying in state. Friday is the last day people will have an opportunity to view the body.

“I wish people (would) listen when we tell them they cannot go to the Union Buildings anymore. We are not preventing anyone to go see Mandela, but I must keep them safe by doing my job,” Naidoo said.

More than 100 people decided to march to the Union Buildings earlier.

If buses could not take them there to see Mandela, they would march there, they said.

Naidoo said she would not close the centre yet.

“The best thing now is to let them go in and enjoy the atmosphere, I suppose... they will decide by themselves when they would start leaving.”

The winding queue continued as people of all ages, some dressed in suits, stood in the blistering sun.

Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg last Thursday at the age of 95. He will be buried in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.


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