11 Dec 2013

Nelson Mandela’s body to lie in state for three days

Nelson Mandela’s coffin arrives at the Union Buildings in the capital where his remains will lie in state for three days, with huge crowds expected to pay their respects.

The streets of Pretoria were lined with people paying respects as the procession made a short journey from Military Hospital to the Union Buildings.

Traffic in the city was gridlocked from early morning with shops along the procession route closed.

Today in London a public memorial service will remember the life of the anti-apartheid leader at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, the scene of freedom vigils for Mr Mandela during his incarceration.

Speaking at the service will be Sir Sydney Kentridge QC and Lord Joffe of Lidington, who both represented Mr Mandela at his treason trials, along with campaigner and African National Congress veteran Mama Thembi Nobhadula.

On Sunday Mr Mandela will be buried at his childhood village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province.

The Prince of Wales will be among a smaller group of dignitaries travelling to the remote rural location for that service.

US president Barack Obama led tributes to Mr Mandela yesterday as world leaders joined thousands of people at a memorial service in the rain-soaked FNB Stadium in Soweto.

The US president spoke of the “heroic” life of the South African leader, describing him as the “last great liberator of the 20th century”.

“He was not a bust made of marble, he was a man made of flesh and blood,” Mr Obama told the crowds.

“It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection, because he was so full of good humour, even mischief despite the heavy burdens that he carried, that we loved him so,” he said.

Mr Obama’s speech came after he shook hands with Cuban president Raul Castro, the first public greeting between a US president since the Cuban revolution.