Uhuru-Spirit News


December 11, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

Mr Mandela's widow Graca Machel was among those who filed past his coffin on Wednesday

Thousands of people waited to see Nelson Mandela lying in an open casket on Wednesday in queues reminiscent of South Africa's first democratic election in 1994.

There were cries of "Amandla!" (a popular rallying cry from the days of resistance against apartheid, meaning "power") and "Viva Nelson Mandela, viva!" along with liberation struggle songs and foot-stamping aboard buses taking the public to sites for security screening in the capital, Pretoria.

Police generally maintained order but there were occasional flashpoints whenever someone tried to jump the queue and angry voices were raised. The riot of colour included African National Congress regalia and football shirts.

Africans queued for hours to get a glimpse of their hero

Nezi Maqungu, 53, from East London in Eastern Cape province, compared the snaking lines to the 1994 election that took Mandela to power. "It brings back memories," she said. "But that was exciting whereas this is sad. We can't believe he's gone. There will never be another like him."

Police and security staff gave frequent reminders that mobile phones and cameras were banned from the viewing site at the Union Buildings. It remains unclear what will happen if the system of bussing people to the site fails to get everyone through by the scheduled closure time of 5pm. Mandela will also lie in state on Thursday and Friday.

Small crowds had already gathered as the coffin was driven through Pretoria on the way to the Union Buildings

Leaders including the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, the South African president, Jacob Zuma, the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and others were among the first to pass by the casket in two lines on Wednesday. Four junior naval officers in white uniforms kept watch. Celebrities including Bono also paid their respects.

Mandela's widow, Graça Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other family members also viewed his body.

Each day, Mandela's coffin will be driven back to 1 Military Hospital to be held overnight. Authorities have asked the public to line the streets as an honour guard for each trip.

The Nobel Peace laureate will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, his ancestral home in the rural Eastern Cape province, 700km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg.

The mood was celebratory rather than sombre in most places

Many in the queue on Wednesday had never seen Mandela in life and wanted their last chance to see his face before he is buried on Sunday. Gadushca Kidushin, 21, said: "This will be the first time I've seen him. I'm sad today but at the same time I'm happy. He fought for our peace, our freedom, our humanity."

Kidushin wanted his five-year-old son, Kelvin, to share in the history. "I brought my son so he can see the legend that was in this world."

Reabetswe Letsholo, 20, said: "I felt I needed to be here to say goodbye because Tata meant a lot to me. Generations that come after us will know the history of this man and this country. Children in school will learn about him."

"Tata" means father in Xhosa and is a term of endearment given to Mandela by many South Africans.

Outside, people danced and sang and waved a banner that said: "We will forever miss you, Tata," above a montage of press clippings. They cheered one of Mandela's granddaughters when she arrived by bus.

The Union Buildings contain numerous reminders of South Africa's colonial history including statues of prominent Afrikaners and plaques listing the dead of the first world war – a conflict which overlapped with Mandela's birth, as Barack Obama reminded mourners on Tuesday.

Next week the Union Buildings will mark their centenary – by unveiling a statue of Mandela. - The Guardian / BBC

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