Stam­pede threat as gates close

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 - WEEKEND AR­GUS REPORTER AND SAPA

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.

PIC­TURE: PABALLO THEK­ISO

A young girl is car­ried away by a sol­dier af­ter view­ing Nel­son Man­dela’s body.

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