Thousands of South Africans line up to see Mandela lie in state

Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:25pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Tiisetso Motsoeneng

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Thousands of people lined up on Wednesday to say goodbye to Nelson Mandela, whose body lay in state in Pretoria in the building where the anti-apartheid hero was inaugurated in 1994 as South Africa's first black president.

Several people fainted in the stifling heat as South Africans waited their turn to file past Mandela's casket after family members, foreign dignitaries and celebrities paid their respects at the imposing Union Buildings, perched on a hill overlooking the city.

By afternoon the summer heat and lack of access to water and toilets caused several people to pass out and tempers to fray as mourners waited in line for their last chance to see the man regarded as the father of democratic South Africa.

"There's a 5,000-strong crowd here. There's not one mobile toilet, no water, there's nothing for the people. People are becoming upset and frustrated," said Ronelle Johnson-Hoskins, who had been queuing since morning.

Mourners, some carrying infants on their backs, were also turned away if they did not have an identity document, she said, something they did not know they needed.

The government said in a statement that identity documents were not required, and said the cut-off time for those hoping to view Mandela's body had been reached by 3:30 pm (1330 GMT), meaning many hundreds of people were likely be turned away.

Any perception that the government had mismanaged the logistics of Mandela's lying in state could further infuriate South Africans, a day after President Jacob Zuma was humiliated by boos and jeers at the memorial ceremony.

The government also faced complaints it used a fake sign language interpreter for the memorial, who gesticulated gibberish before a global audience of millions and outraged deaf people across the world.   Continued...

Military personnel carry the remains of the late Nelson Mandela upon arrival at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, December 11, 2013, as members of the Mandela family follow behind. REUTERS/Kim Ludbrook/Pool