Stampede threat as gates close
THERE was almost a stampede at the Tshwane Events Centre park-and-ride facility in Pretoria yesterday as people tried to force their way in when police closed the gates to prevent more people entering.
“I received an instruction from national ( police headquarters) that no one should be let in so we closed the gates,” said Colonel Caroline Naidoo, Pretoria West area commander. “People got angry and tried to force their way through… we had to open the gates again to prevent a stampede.
A seven-year-old child fell and was almost trampled by the angry crowd, she said. The child was rescued before it could be injured.
At least 7 000 people were still in queues inside the venue around 2pm waiting for transport to the Union Buildings to view the body of Nelson Mandela lying in state. Yesterday was the last day people could view the body.
“I wish people (would) listen when we tell them they cannot go to the Union Buildings anymore. We are not preventing anyone going to see Mandela, but I must keep them safe by doing my job,” Naidoo said.
More than 100 people decided to march to the Union Buildings earlier.
If buses could not take them there to see Mandela they would march there, they said.
The winding queue continued as people of all ages, some dressed in suits, stood in the blistering sun.
Later, a number of people charged through a police line at the Union Buildings, when it was reopened to the public at 4.20pm after being shut earlier.
It was chaos as police tried to restrict the public to one person at a time to view Mandela’s body. The crowd broke through the police line and began running into the Union Buildings.
Police quickly regained control of the situation.
About an hour earlier, police locked the gates after government announced that capacity had been reached for the day.
Acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said about 100 000 people had paid homage to the former statesman since Wednesday.
After the coffin was closed, it was draped in a South African flag, placed in the hearse with senior male Mandela family members standing nearby.
A military band played the national anthem, after which a cortège of official vehicles departed.
A young girl is carried away by a soldier after viewing Nelson Mandela’s body.