Emo­tional fi­nal day to view Madiba

Thou­sands bid farewell but some are turned away from last chance to see for­mer pres­i­dent

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 - VALESKA ABREU and TE­BOGO NO­MAMA

EIGHTY- one- year old Sarah Ibrahim cried when Madiba’s body was driven up to the Union Build­ings.

“He has al­ways been in my heart. I al­ways wanted to see him. There’s no one like this man. How can I not want to see him?”

Ibrahim, from Jo­han­nes­burg, queued at the LC de Vil­liers Sports Cen­tre on Wed­nes­day but could not see the body as the line was cut off just af­ter 2pm, be­fore he could make it.

Ste­vie Naicker trav­elled from Dur­ban to view the body. She said it was im­por­tant for her to be there be­cause her un­cle, Ge­orge Naicker, had been im­pris­oned with Man­dela on Robben Is­land for 14 years.

“I met him once be­fore he was elected pres­i­dent. It was such a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. I shook his hand and asked to kiss him. I didn’t even wash my face that night.”

Naicker was turned back on Thurs­day from the park-an­dride fa­cil­ity at Hat­field.

“I was dis­ap­pointed, but I prayed hard. The man spent 27 years in prison – one day out of my life isn’t any­thing.”

In a fi­nal trib­ute truly be­fit­ting a man of his stature, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple lined the streets of the Pre­to­ria CBD yes­ter­day as the late pres­i­dent made his fi­nal trip to the Union Build­ings.

“Nel­son Man­dela! Nel­son Man­dela our pres­i­dent,” sang the peo­ple as they marched up and down Madiba Street in high spir­its, await­ing their fi­nal chance to catch a glimpse of Madiba’s cof­fin in a hearse, as a guard of hon­our lined the street.

ANC spokesman Jack­son Mthembu urged those who had been un­able to view Madiba’s body to un­der­stand that this was in­evitable.

He said Madiba was so loved and he had at­tracted such large crowds that it was not pos­si­ble for ev­ery­one wish­ing to see the body to be ac­com­mo­dated.

For the third day Man­dela’s grand­son Mandla stood at the side of the cas­ket at the Union Build­ings, while navy of­fi­cials dressed in their pris­tine white uni­forms took turns to guard the cas­ket.

An ex­tremely som­bre mood hung around the Union Build­ings yes­ter­day evening as prepa­ra­tions to move Man­dela’s body back to 1 Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal were be­ing fi­nalised, with peo­ple present know­ing that this was the very last time they would see him.

Mandla Man­dela, fought hard to hold back tears as his grand­fa­ther’s cas­ket was loaded to leave the Union Build­ings for the very last time.

Some mem­bers of

the SANDF also strug­gled to hold back tears.

As the cortege made its way back to 1 Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal, peo­ple again lined the streets on hear­ing the sound of the mo­tor­cade, and sang a fi­nal far­well to Madiba.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

FI­NAL PUSH: Mourn­ers fall dur­ing a stam­pede as they run to queue be­fore board­ing buses to take them to the Union Build­ings, Pre­to­ria, where Nel­son Man­dela lay in state yes­ter­day.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

DES­PER­ATE BID: A po­lice of­fi­cer is at the ready as mourn­ers force their way through a check­point on the way to the Union Build­ings.

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