Guarded by South African Naval personnel, the casket with former president Nelson Mandela lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Markus Schreiber

Johannesburg -

Someone has taken a death picture of Nelson Mandela, lying in state, and posted it on Twitter.

The Mandela family are devastated by this breach of custom.

The government is outraged – and is looking for the person who took it.

When the news of the image broke on Thursday morning, many believed it was a hoax because of the tight security around Mandela while he lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The image is a close-up, greenish-tinged picture of Mandela’s face taken from directly above – seemingly through a transparent covering – as he lies in his open coffin.

The picture was posted by I yNqobi.

In between tweets about the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial at FNB Stadium on Tuesday, which is her sexiest body part, and how she can’t stick to a healthy diet, she posted a picture of Mandela with the words “He is resting”.

By 10am on Thursday the picture had been retweeted three times.

Most people reacted by asking how she could post the picture and how it was possible to take a photograph of Madiba when there was such tight security at the public viewing of his body at the Union Buildings.

She reacted by telling those who messaged her that she wasn’t the one who took the picture, “urgh suka! I did not take the pic” and that it was “some Indian guy”.

Mandela family spokesman, Lieutenant-General Themba Mathanzima said that the family were very concerned about the picture.

“We do not know who did this, but we are going to be asking the government to investigate,” said Mathanzima.

He said the public had been warned not to take any images of Mandela’s body. He said the Mandela family are asking the public to be sensitive to their grief.

“That picture was definitely not taken with our permission. The family are outraged,” he said.

The government said it is shocked at the blatant breach of security.

Government Communications Information Services spokeswoman Phumla Williams said that the family were devastated about the photograph being taken after members of the public had specifically been asked not to take photos.

“It is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is disrespect for the man and for the family who has, for years, been assisting this country.

“How can the family heal if this photo is being circulated, because it will be around for years to come,” she said.

Twitter would immediately be asked to withdraw it, she said.

“We will try to get it withdrawn. But we will also go to all the community radios appealing to (people’s) consciences. I just find it quite disrespectful indeed. I certainly would never want my father or mother to be treated in this manner in my most vulnerable hour of grief,” said Williams.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, there has been a backlash over the photo:

“Ai, but this is not right. What d hell. This photo has no respect”

“Wow. How can you take a picture of a corpse – YOU ARE SICK”.

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The Star

* IOL will not be publishing the picture.