Nelson Mandela's Casket Set for Public Viewing

5:36 AM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
Military officers carry the coffin of South African former president Nelson Mandela to the Union Buildings marking the start of a three-day lying in state in Pretoria on December 11, 2013. (Getty Images)
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PRETORIA, South Africa - Thousands of people waited in long lines to pay their respects to South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela Wednesday, whose body arrived in the country's capital Pretoria where it will lie in state for three days.

On a warm and sunny day, many sang songs and called out farewells to the anti-apartheid icon, whose casket is on display in an amphitheater at the Union Buildings, once a symbol of the racist, white-dominated government in the country.

When Mandela took office in 1994, he used the building as his offices and the presidency is still located there. It is the same location where he was sworn in as president.

Family members and invited officials have been viewing Mandela's body this morning and the public will be allowed to file past his casket from later Wednesday.

Mandela stepped down from the presidency in 1999 and his last public appearance was at the World Cup in 2010. He died Thursday night at age 95.

President Jacob Zuma named the amphitheater after Mandela by decree Tuesday.

The Union Buildings, which have been described by the South African government as a "modern-day acropolis," sit atop a hill overlooking Pretoria.

Mandela's casket will travel to Qunu - his home village in the Eastern Cape - for his funeral on Sunday, which is expected to be a more low-key affair.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of South Africans joined world leaders and other dignitaries for a memorial service on the outskirts of Johannesburg honoring the man President Obama eulogized as "the last great liberator of the 20th century."

FULL COVERAGE: Remembering Nelson Mandela

 

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