THOUSANDS of mourners woke up early today to be among the first people to view the body of former President Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings.
They did not want to be turned back like the many mourners who missed out on seeing Madiba yesterday before his remains had to be taken back to 1 Military hospital at 5.30pm. The public started viewing the body of the Struggle Hero just before 2pm on the first day – after the Mandela family and dignitaries – including heads of states – went to see him one last time. On that first day of Lying in State, the public was supposed to start viewing the body at noon, but the first group only reached him just before 2pm.
One of the people turned away was Moses Lekalakala (36) from Makapanstad who arrived at the Tshwane Events Centre at 4am yesterday (Thursday) to make sure that he would not be turned away again. “Nothing will stand in my way of honouring Madiba. He has really freed us and given the nation new hope,” he told Daily Sun.
Pheladi Makgakga (29) from Mmotong wa Perekisi in Limpopo slept over at a friend’s house on Wednesday night so that she could make it. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I could not miss it. I have never met Tata before, but he is a huge part of my life. It feels like I have known him personally for years,” she said.
Whilst in the long winding queue, the mourners’ spirits stayed high as they sang and dance. No one seemed to be impatient and there was no pushing and shoving.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane has appealed to mourners to dress in a dignified manner to show their respect for Madiba and the family. He also advised them not to bring children. That was after the public was outraged by images of children viewing Madiba on the first day. The government also stressed that cell phones and cameras would not be allowed.
Tomorrow will be the public’s last chance to see Madiba. His remains will be airlifted to Qunu on Saturday after a final send-off by the African National Congress (ANC) at Air Force Base Waterkloof. On Monday, President Jacob Zuma is set to unveil Madiba’s statue at the Union Buildings.