Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mandela's Body to Lie in State at Union Buildings

11 December 2013
Last updated at 01:08 ET
BBC World Service

Mandela's body to lie in state at Union Buildings

The body of Nelson Mandela has arrived at the Union Buildings in Pretoria where it will lie in state for three days.

His remains were taken in procession from a hospital mortuary to the government buildings.

People lined the route to form a "guard of honour".

The public, as well as invited heads of state and international guests, will be able to view Mandela's body at the Union Buildings.

The former South African president died last Thursday, aged 95.

The country is observing a series of commemorations leading up to the funeral, which is being held in his home village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of South Africans joined scores of world leaders for a national memorial service on Tuesday.


The procession left the city's 1 Military Hospital shortly after 07:00 (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday. The coffin could be seen inside a black hearse, draped in a South African flag.

It travelled along Kgosi Mampuru Street and Madiba Street on the way to the Union Buildings.

Mr Mandela's remains will make the journey from the military hospital every morning from Wednesday until Friday, the government has announced.

"The public are encouraged to form a guard of honour by lining the streets," it said.

The Union Buildings are the official seat of the South African government. It is where Mr Mandela was sworn in as the country's first black president in 1994.

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko outside the buildings says the mood in Pretoria is more sombre than at the memorial service on Tuesday, where crowds sang and danced in celebration.

There has never been a file past of this magnitude in South Africa, our correspondent adds.

At the memorial service on Tuesday, the current South African President, Jacob Zuma, announced he was renaming the Union Buildings the Mandela Amphitheatre.

The Mandela family and selected VIP visitors will be able to view the body from 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT) on Wednesday. Members of the public can file past the casket from 12:00 to 17:30.

The public will then be able to view the body from 08:00 to 17:30 on Thursday and Friday.

Great liberator

US President Barack Obama led the tributes to Mr Mandela at Monday's memorial service in rainy weather at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg.

He said the former South African president was a "giant of history", describing him as the last great liberator of the 20th Century.

"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. While I will always fall short of Madiba (Mr Mandela's clan name), he makes me want to be a better man."

On Saturday, Mr Mandela's remains will be transported to the Eastern Cape from Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

A military guard of honour will welcome the arrival. The coffin will then be placed on a gun carriage and then transported to a hearse.

Mr Mandela's body will then be taken to his home village of Qunu, where the Thembu community will conduct a traditional ceremony.

A national day of reconciliation will take place on 16 December when a statue of Mr Mandela will be unveiled at the Union Buildings.

Big screens have been set up across the country to show the planned national events.

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