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Africa

South Africans pay last respects to Mandela

South Africans continue to mourn Nelson Mandela. Since Wednesday, his body is lying in state in Union Buildings, the official seat of government in Pretoria.

Much of the city center was closed for traffic with people having to use public transport that was provided to be able to reach the venue.

As early as seven o’clock in the morning, hundreds of people had lined up to pay their last respects as they waited, to say the final goodbyes to their hero.

For 25 year old Jen Hewitt, who was waiting with her boyfriend at the end of the line the wait was worth it. She told DW that she was only six years old when Mandela was released from prison

"How can you not celebrate a man like this? This is something so huge in our lives. Living in the time of Nelson Mandela was an honor in itself," she said, "coming to pay tribute to him is an opportunity."

Thirty one year old Ndundu Zulu who donned a yellow T-shirt with a portrait of Nelson Mandela said he could even for two days to pay his last respects.However he decried South Africa's current situation.

"We are very far from the principles Madiba stood for. If you were at the stadium on Tuesday, you could see that we still have a long way to bridge the gap between our current society and the society Madiba stood for."

Sharley Harrison, an elderly lady in a white dress brought along her housekeeper. She told DW that South Africans need to carry on where Nelson Mandela had left.

People waiting to be taken to view the body of Mandela

Hundreds of people waited to be transported to view Mandela's body at the Union Buildings

"We have to carry on, and I have tried. Maria, the lady who works for me over here, I have tried to help her daughter start off with catering. This is how it starts with the little things.

Mandela’s body will lie in state at Union Buildings,in Pretoria until Friday. On Sunday, the official burial will take place at his home village of Qunu at South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

Family left in tears

Mandela’s body was flown from the military hospital in Pretoria into the Union building for public viewing.

Shortly afterwards Mandela’s daughter Zindzi broke down in tears as she viewed her father’s body. President Zuma entered the building accompanied by Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Mandela. All the three made no statements to the media as they left the building.

A ban on pictures

Mandela’s body was dressed in a batik shirt, in which Mandela appeared frequently in public. It was a brown shirt with yellow patterns. Four soldiers kept guard beside him. Visitors were not allowed to carry their mobile phones and photographs of the corpse were strictly forbidden out of respect for the dead.

Also former South African President who released Nelson Mandela from jail, F.W. de Klerk, paid his respects. His wife was captured by the cameras wiping away tears from her eyes.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe made sure he didn’t miss the opportunity to appear before the camera. Appearing on the South African state television, SABC, he said Africa is lost without Mandela. ”He was a true revolutionary,” Mugabe added.

Emotions run higher

Not only Fountain Valley was filled with people but also the drive ways were congested. At the exhibition center of Pretoria emotions run high because the queues were getting longer. Finally, the riot police arrived and was able to bring back some order.

A line of people waiting to see Mandela's body

South Africans have until Friday to bid farewell to Nelson Mandela

In the city center it wasn’t any different as people became more restless.In front of the Union Buildings, angry people could be seen complaining to the police. They were unhappy about the long delays.

The green lawn in front of the Union Buildings, however, had been taken over by the international media.Around the statue of South Africa's first Prime Minister Loius Botha,broadcasting vans were parked close to each other.

To many it was a lifetime opportunity. "I have always wanted to meet Nelson Mandela when he was still alive. But at least we finally made it, "said 14 year old Curoso Gay.

Johanna Maleka, 51 years old, told DW that she cried when she stood in front of his body." I wept not only because of the grief over his death but also in gratitude for he did for us.It was a moment that I will tell my grandchildren one day," she said.


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