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Huge Crowds at Final Day of Mandela Viewing

  • VOA News

South African police try to block mourners at a checkpoint while they attempt to walk to the Union building to see the body of former South African President Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria, Dec. 13, 2013.

South African police try to block mourners at a checkpoint while they attempt to walk to the Union building to see the body of former South African President Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria, Dec. 13, 2013.

About 100,000 mourners turned out Friday to view the body of South Africa's former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, as it lay in state in Pretoria for a third and final day.

Police struggled to control the crowds waiting for a last chance to see Mr. Mandela before he is buried in his rural hometown of Qunu on Sunday.

A VOA reporter said some mourners tried to push past police and police barricades. He said some became angry when they learned they might not see the body before viewing hours ended. Several people fell to the ground during a minor stampede, as mourners rushed to board buses that would take them to the viewing area.

Mourners had begun lining up as early as 3:00am local time. One of the mourners, a Doctor Mulumba, said he did not want to miss his chance to see Mr. Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95.

He arrived at the Union Building around 4:00am. after failing to view the body Thursday where he had arrived around 11:00am.

Paulina Kwanyane, an attorney from Johannesburg, arrived early Thursday morning to see the body of Nelson Mandela, which was lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

She said, "I joined the queue about seven in the morning yesterday, but I couldn't make it."

After waiting eight hours, the line was cut off at 3 p.m. So she decided to get a cheap hotel room, waking up at 3 a.m. Friday to line up again. Just after noon, she made it inside to see Mandela -- a quick walk by his open coffin, which is topped by glass.

The waiting for that brief moment was worth it to the 41-year-old, and harkened back to waiting in line for the country's first free election.

"You know the queue that I was standing in yesterday, it reminded me of 1994. Because we wanted to just have to vote for freedom," said Kwanyane.

After two days of waiting, she found solace. She said, "This is day two, but I'm happy. I made it, regardless. It was quite tough, but it was worth it. I couldn't go back without seeing him.… He gave up his life for us, and here we are today. So he deserved that little -- it's a few hours for us and he gave up years of his life for us."

Police form a barricade after the the cut off time for viewing the body of Nelson Mandela outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec. 13, 2013.

Police form a barricade after the the cut off time for viewing the body of Nelson Mandela outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Dec. 13, 2013.

The viewing site was in the amphitheater of the Union Buildings, South Africa’s seat of government. It is the same place where Mr. Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first black president in 1994, after being imprisoned for 27 years for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.

His body is now at a Pretoria military hospital. On Saturday, Mr. Mandela's body will be flown to Qunu, where his funeral and burial will take place Sunday.

The former South African leader died on December 5, following a lengthy illness. He was 95.
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