Foreign dignitaries and celebrities joined thousands of South
Africans at the imposing Union Buildings, perched on a hill
overlooking Pretoria, for a last chance to see the body of the
man regarded as the father of democratic South Africa. Some
carried infants on their backs.
Mandela's flag-draped casket was met by officers representing
branches of the military on arrival from the capital's main
military hospital, in a formal ceremony that contrasted with
Thousands of mourners lined the streets as the black hearse, led
by a procession of police motorcycles, wound its way to the
official seat of government.
Mandela's death on Thursday at the age of 95 has brought an
outpouring of grief and mourning in the country he led as
president from 1994 to 1999, as well as celebration and
thanksgiving for his life and achievements.
"This is a significant moment for me and my children," said
teacher Thapelo Dlamini, 48, who had been waiting on the street
for two hours with his two children.
Traffic in Pretoria was gridlocked from early morning and shops
along the procession route were closed.
The Nobel Peace laureate will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, his
ancestral home in the rural Eastern Cape province, 700 km (450
miles) south of Johannesburg.
Among those filing past Mandela's casket were singer Bono, model
Naomi Campbell and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. F.W. de
Klerk, South Africa's last white president who shared the Nobel
Peace Prize with Mandela, appeared to wipe away a tear as he
passed the coffin.
"I want to see him. Even if I have to stand here for three
hours, I want to see him. It's my last chance," said Habib
Urehem, 66, a teacher of Islam.
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The mood was more somber than jubilant, a marked departure
from Tuesday's memorial in Soweto, where the crowd danced and
sang in the rain to honor Mandela's memory and booed and jeered
President Jacob Zuma.
Mandela's death has diverted attention from a raft of corruption
scandals in Zuma's administration, but it has also underscored the
gulf between South Africa's first black president and its fourth.
Although South African newspapers flayed Zuma on Wednesday, they
also reprimanded the crowd for booing during the service to
commemorate a man famed for his ability to reconcile and forgive
The Star, Johannesburg's main daily newspaper, ran "Zuma's
Humiliation" as its headline.
The Times newspaper said: "It is a pity that, on the day the world
came together to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, large sections of the
crowd at the official memorial service heckled and booed President
"Not because our scandal-prone, often bumbling, president doesn't
deserve it — he manifestly does."
The heckling of Zuma is a worrying sign for the ruling African
National Congress (ANC) as it heads for polls next year. But having
won nearly 66 percent of the vote in 2009, the ANC is unlikely to
lose its majority next year.
Zuma's five years in office have been marked by scandal, feeble
economic growth and social and labor unrest.
(Writing by David Dolan; editing by Ed Stoddard and Janet Lawrence)
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