Eyewitness News | Today, 13:08
PRETORIA – Almost 100,000 people are now standing in queues to view Nelson Mandela as he lies in state at the Union Buildings for the third and final day.
Government says it won't be extending the viewing hours and says it's physically impossible for more people to be transported to the Union Buildings. Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau says unfortunately there is just not enough time left and all park–and–ride facilities are over capacity.
Officials are now asking that people no longer come through to Pretoria as they simple can't handle the volume of people.
“We realise the number of people who are trying to view the former president today far exceeded the numbers we anticipated.” Government is now appealing to those who won't be able to say goodbye to Madiba in person to quietly do so on their own. Ratau says by 7am around 30,000 people were at various park–and–ride facilities across the capital waiting in line. “We can't be guaranteed they will all be accommodated in the time we still have left for the viewing.”
PRETORIA COMES TO A STANDSTILL Pretoria has come to a virtual standstill since Wednesday as Mandela lies in state at the seat of government where he was sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president almost 20 years ago. Thousands have filed past Madiba's body to share a quiet moment and see him one last time. One man flew in from Equatorial Guinea with a group of students in order to pay their respects. “We just come to support our father because he is the father of peace and freedom.” Another woman, who has been queuing since around 3am, says it has all been worth it. “Everything he has fought for has just given me a platform to live my life in freedom.” An elderly Limpopo couple who failed to get inside yesterday, spent the night in their car and have been trying again today. The statesman's coffin is being displayed in a roofed structure that is open on either side. The global icon is dressed in one of his famous shirts, with yellow and black prints. No one is allowed to take pictures of Madiba once inside and members of the public should remove their sunglasses and hats before paying respects. Women who are wearing open shouldered tops are also being told to cover their arms before entering the amphitheatre as a sign of respect. Members of the public will be able to see the body and pay their last respects until 5pm. Mandela will be buried in his village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday, bringing to a close 10 days of national mourning.
UNION BUILDINGS Mandela's body arrived at the Union Buildings at around 8am. A motorcade of approximately 40 cars were greeted by large crowds of the public as well as army and police officials as it arrived. Once again, Mandela's coffin was received by military officers who stood to attention when it arrived before carrying it into the newly named Nelson Mandela amphitheatre. Mandela's grandson Mandla is there again and looked solemn as the coffin was transported inside. A brass band played the national anthem.
THOUSANDS LINE STREETS This morning's procession headed to the Union Buildings via Kgosi Mampuru and Madiba Streets which were lined with thousands of people.
Police officers, emergency officials and members of the public formed a guard of honour on Madiba Street.
Earlier, a group of people were marching down the street chanting struggle songs and holding up a large banner bearing Madiba's picture.
The sound of vuvuzelas echoed across the streets as people sang songs and waved the South African flag.
South African military health personnel formed a guard of honour at the entrance to the hospital. The cortege was led by a group of Tshwane Metro Police officers followed by a formation of 15 military police in full dress uniform. The large glass windows of the black hearse revealed Mandela's casket which is draped in a South African flag. Shortly after the procession left, hundreds broke through a police cordon and rushed towards the hearse transporting Madiba's remains. Military police and traffic authorities rushed to keep people back. The scene was celebratory with the crowd jubilantly singing songs in honour of Madiba. OVERWHELMING TWO DAYS The last two days have seen thousands of South Africans queue at key points across the capital in the hopes of being able to pay their last respects to Madiba. For many, seeing his body has brought closure, while others say their experience was overwhelming.
The Mandela family, along with several dignitaries and government officials including President Jacob Zuma, Cuban President Raul Castro, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former president Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have also payed their respects.