Pretoria - Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela arrived at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria early on Saturday morning, ahead of the flight carrying the body of the former president to the Eastern Cape.
A sombre looking Madikizela-Mandela was accompanied by several relatives.
Waterkloof Air Force Base was a hive of activity from early on Saturday morning.
Soldiers and military police searched all vehicles entering the base, while television news crews set up camera equipment on a large stretch of tarmac.
Officers directed numerous Mercedes-Benz cars to a designated VIP section of the base.
Government said on Friday the SA National Defence Force was expected to hand over Mandela's remains to the ANC at 7am.
The African National Congress said President Jacob Zuma and leaders of the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the SA Communist Party would deliver tribute speeches on the life and legacy of Mandela.
A stage was set up at the airbase with flowers and green army parachute material draped from the ceiling.
The SANDF would again take over at 9am for the send-off ceremony and departure from the base.
The Mandela family said on Friday several of them would accompany Mandela's body on the flight. They said the flight was expected to leave at 10.45am.
“He will leave Waterkloof with members of the family, who will accompany him,” family spokesman General Temba Matanzima told reporters in Johannesburg.
“When they land in Mthatha, at about 12.45pm, the body and the delegation... will be met by members of the family, members of the Thembu nation, and others who are prepared to meet and accompany the family.”
From there, the convoy with the coffin would proceed through the streets of Mthatha.
“There will be two stops. There will be a stop on York Road, next to the old stadium, and there will be another stop at Ultra City for 10 or 15 minutes for people to see (the convoy),” Matanzima said.
From there, the convoy would proceed to Qunu, where the body would be handed over to the Mandela family by the SANDF.
“The members of the family will (then) do their part, taking the body into the house of Madiba, and there they will wait until the next morning when the official funeral will take place.”
Matanzima said government would provide further details on the funeral programme. - Sapa