The three-day public viewing of the body of the late South African former President Nelson Mandela commenced at the government offices in the Union Building in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Thousands of South Africans, heads of states, government officials and people from the rest of the world, lined up going past Mandela’s coffin to pay their last respect.
A sad moment indeed as South Africans flocked to the event to say their final goodbye to the country’s first black President as his body lay in state.
The process started with Mandela’s body being transported from a military hospital just outside Pretoria, as early as 7 o’clock in the morning. Hundreds of ordinary South Africans, police, soldiers and prison officers lined up the streets paying their last respect.
But one may ask why is this man so dear and close to the hearts of not only South Africans but to the entire world.
At the Union Buildings, military helicopters hovered above as the body was being taken down from the hearse to be placed on the viewing platform.
Mandela’s family was the first to view the body, which was in a coffin with a glass top to allow people to see Mandela’s face and the body.
Heads of states and top government officials, including Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, were next.
The Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane gave strict instructions about the viewing process.
Then, the whole public followed with queues stretching several kilometres.
This became the most traumatic moment, as thousands of people went past Mandela’s coffin. No photograph or posing next to the coffin was allowed, and viewers were marked with some ink to curb second viewing.
Many broke down in tears, uncontrollably as the sight of his body evoked emotions and the reality that the man they loved and cherished so much, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Dalibunga Madiba, has gone forever and never to return in this present life.
Serah Matlhobogoane, one of the thousands who took part in Wednesday’s body viewing, said the pain he felt has pierced his heart for life.
It is clear that the greatness of this internationally mourned fallen hero, can never be wiped off the history of the world.