Scenes of grief at Madiba coffin

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A woman cries after paying her respects at the coffin of former president Nelson Mandela. Photo: Yves Herman

Pretoria - A woman with the South African flag draped over her shoulders broke down into tears after seeing former president Nelson Mandela's body at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday.

“It's a blessing for me,” Frida Manamela said, trying to hold back her tears.

“It reminds me of the old days. I think I'm okay now after seeing his face. The old man is now at peace,” she said, before bursting into tears again.

Mandela's body was lying in state in the amphitheatre, the site where he was inaugurated as the country's first democratically-elected president in 1994.

Motheo Modiba, a 20-year-old university student, said she felt honoured to see Mandela.

“Oh my gosh, it was awesome yet so scary,” she said.

“I feel that it was a blessing. He... still looked handsome.”

Rita Fatyela, an ANC Women's League member from Villiersdorp in the Western Cape said she was happy she could see Mandela.

“I feel very happy because I could see my lord; Mandela is my lord.

“He looked beautiful. Papa is not dead, he is sleeping,” Fatyela said.

Prince Mashiane, from Soshanguve, sat on a bench in front of the Union Buildings looking out over Pretoria. He had not gone to see the body yet.

“We lost a father. We lost such a great man,” he said staring out into the distance.

Hundreds of people continued to queue at the Union Buildings waiting for their chance to bid Mandela farewell.

Vanessa Narainsamy wore a green, yellow and black sari in honour of Mandela and the African National Congress.

“As you can see, I'm clad in the ANC colours; I think he (Mandela) would have appreciated that.”

She said seeing the body had given her closure.

“It was such a good experience, more of a relief... He always meant so much to me.”

Narainsamy said it was always her desire to meet the struggle icon, which she got to do on Thursday.

“You have these mixed emotions, you just want to cry out. He stole everyone's heart.”

Jared Reddy, 16, who flew up from Durban, said it was an experience for him to see Mandela.

“It was a great experience, especially being someone who was born in the new South Africa.

“We lost a great icon who will be sorely missed,” said Reddy.

Correctional services officer Abigail Zuma, who said seeing Mandela's remains had made his death last Thursday a reality.

“I feel fulfilled but very emotional. I saw him and I'm happy that he's resting peacefully. I feel I am part of history,” she said.

Her correctional services colleague Norman Tshivhase said viewing the body was difficult but made him accept that the man South Africans claimed not only as a hero but a father had died.

“It was bad to see my leader, my real comrade, lying down like that. I got closure,” said Tshivhase, wearing a red SA Communist Party cap and T-shirt.

Foreign dignitaries, among them Cuban President Raul Castro, paid their respects along with South Africans of all races and walks of life in a snapshot of the “rainbow” nation Mandela first evoked when he was sworn in as president.

Some voiced the political discontent that has spilled into the open since Mandela's death and saw President Jacob Zuma heckled repeatedly in front of almost 100 world leaders at Mandela's official memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.

Ina Scheepers from Centurion said Mandela's death had left a significant void which the country's present leaders could not fill.

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

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