Nelson Mandela’s Coffin Goes On Public View

Nelson Mandela's body is taken into the Union Buildings in Pretoria

Nelson Mandela’s body is taken into the Union Buildings in Pretoria

Winnie Mandela, ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, has viewed his body as it lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Hundreds of other dignitaries are also lining-up to pay their respects to the iconic South African anti-apartheid campaigner, including his wife Graca Machel and President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.

Thousands of South Africans lined the streets of Pretoria to pay their respects after Mr Mandela’s body was taken to lie in state.

The coffin was draped in the multi-coloured South African flag as it arrived at the grand setting of the Union Buildings, seat of power in the country’s capital and the place where the former leader was sworn in as president.

Members of the public formed a guard of honour as his coffin passed by fronted by a fleet of police outriders, at the start of what will be three days of mourning in the executive capital.

As the procession passed, mourners sang tributes to the former South African leader, who died last week at the age of 95.

Mandela’s grandson Mandla and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula led mourners into the viewing area. Soldiers set down the coffin and removed the flag.

After the mourners left, four South African navy officers stood guard over the body.

Members of Mr Mandela’s family and VIPs are paying their respects before the public are allowed in to view the body inside a glass-topped coffin.

The same procession around Pretoria will take place each morning until Friday, with the coffin being returned to the military hospital each evening.

With worries about crowds, three sites have been set up in Pretoria from where mourners will be shuttled in to the Union Buildings and back.

People making their way to the sites told Sky’s Alex Crawford they thanked Nelson Mandela for their freedom.

“South Africa is mourning for the greatest icon that ever lived,” one mourner said. “We are sad, we are crying; today we are going to witness him, we are going to see him and we are going to pray for him.”

People have been told their mobile phones will have to be switched off and be put out of sight before they will be allowed to file past the body. No photos will be allowed.

A public memorial service will also be held at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London from 10.30am at the request of the South African High Commission.

The two share strong links and were the scene of freedom vigils for Mr Mandela during his incarceration.

Speaking at the service will be Sir Sydney Kentridge QC and Lord Joffe of Lidington, who both represented Mr Mandela at his treason trials, and campaignerand African National Congress veteran Mama Thembi Nobhadula.

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder of South Africa’s Inkatha party, said there was something “unique” about his friendship with Nelson Mandela.

Despite the Inkatha party being at virtual war with Mandela’s African National Congress, Chief Buthelezi said he campaigned tirelessly for Mandela’s release.

Speaking to Sky’s Jeremy Thompson, he said: “That was the mischief of many politicians who separated us. But I thank God they did not succeed because our friendship existed up until this point.

“There was something very unique about our friendship. I campaigned for his release more than anyone else in this country. I challenge anyone to prove to the contrary.”

The lying in state will end with Mr Mandela’s remains being transported to the Eastern Cape and his ancestral home of Qunu at the weekend ahead of his funeral.

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the Queen will be represented by the Prince of Wales at the funeral which will take place on Sunday December 15.

Nelson Mandela left it to the South African people to decide how to celebrate his life and legacy.

He said once when asked how he wished to be remembered: “It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered.

“I’d leave that entirely to South Africans. I would just like a simple stone on which is written, ‘Mandela’.”

From News

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