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‘Goodbye, Tata. You played your role'

Published Dec 6, 2013

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Pretoria - Scores of Pretoria residents flocked to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday to commemorate the life of former president Nelson Mandela.

Maria Kekana, 74, from Mamelodi, said she could not stay at home after hearing the news of Mandela's death. She was there with her grandchildren.

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“I am very hungry because I left my place before sunset. I am here to say, 'Goodbye, Tata. You played your role'. I am hurt,” she said.

“He made sure that aged, poor people like myself get government grants. Mandela was the saviour. Life will not be the same.”

Anthony Yeboah, from Ghana, waved the South African and Ghanaian flags.

“I have come to mourn my father Nelson Mandela. When he was here in the Pretoria hospital I used to bring him flowers. Now it's my duty to be here,” he said.

Mandela spent about three months in a hospital in Pretoria earlier this year, before being sent home to continue receiving intensive care.

“I remember Mandela once said the liberation of South Africa would be meaningless unless it is linked to the abolishment of racism. May God bless Madiba.”

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Rob Mamafa, of Centurion, said he would not be celebrating over the festive season.

“When he was sick, we expected that a day like this one would come, but not this soon. It is going to be a dark festive season,” said Mamafa, holding back his tears.

“I am here to pay tribute to this fatherly figure. He said to us South Africa belongs to all who live in it, now we have people coming from all walks of life to share with us this wonderful country.”

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Mamafa and other mourners sang and danced in a circle near the main entrance to the Union Buildings.

“His legend will continue to live in us, there will be no other Mandela,” shouted people in the crowd, including young children.

Across town at 1 Military Hospital, where Mandela's body is reportedly being kept, more than 12 soldiers manned the main entrance.

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Small orange cones were placed in the road leading to the entrance and the soldiers were screening all vehicles entering the hospital.

Several journalists milled around outside the military facility. The soldiers approached them and instructed cameramen not to set up their cameras outside the hospital.

“It is an order that we have. You can sit here, but we will not allow anyone to take a video of the hospital,” said a soldier, who declined to give his name.

A helicopter flew around above the hospital. - Sapa

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