Thousands unable to pay respects to Nelson Mandela on third and final day in Pretoria, and at funeral

6:34 PM, Dec 13, 2013   |    comments
An estimated 100,000 lined up in Prestoria to pay respects to Nelson Mandela on the third and final day his body would be kept there. Many were turned away when it came time to fly Mandela's body to the Eastern Cape before taking it to Qunu.
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(USA Today)-- QUNU, South Africa - As the government puts final touches on Nelson Mandela's funeral here, this usually quiet, rural village has come alive with activity.

But while the increase of visitors in the village - including scores of world dignitaries - has excited locals, elders in this community where Mandela grew up are saddened that they won't be allowed to attend Sunday's funeral.

"They are hurt that they won't be able to see him laid to rest, but are also worried about whether the funeral would follow the correct traditional procedures," said Ayanda Majangaza, a younger Qunu resident.

Government spokeswoman Phumla Williams told Reuters that they had to limit the number of people attending the service for the safety and security of the event. As a result, Qunu locals won't be allowed at the private, family burial taking place around Mandela's home.

"We understand the problems with space for the burial and that we cannot go, but we just want to be as close as possible," said Isaac Thafeni, an Eastern Cape local who made his way from a neighboring village with friends to be close to the burial.

Those in Pretoria were also disappointed Friday when many were unable to pay their final respects to Mandela as thousands queued to view his body, which was lying in state for the third and final day.

Williams told the AP that an estimated 100,000 mourners lined up in Pretoria to bid farewell, but about half of the crowd had to be turned away before the casket was to be removed in the late afternoon.

"I feel like I've lost a once in a lifetime opportunity," 22-year-old student Caiphus Ramushun told the AP. "I spent eight hours in line. I came so close to going on. Instead I was turned away."

Later Friday, Mandela's body will be flown to the Eastern Cape before being transported to Qunu, where busloads of police officers and South African defense forces have been deployed in anticipation of large crowds.

A number of banners reading "Lala Ngoxolo Tata" - which translated from Xhosa, one of South Africa's 11 official languages, means "Rest in Peace Madiba" - have been placed all over the region as residents in Qunu and in surrounding villages have been holding prayer services throughout the week.

In nearby Mvezo, situated in the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape about 14 miles south of Qunu, a sepia-colored, framed picture of Mandela was on display Thursday at a prayer service in the community where Mandela was born and where his grandson is chief.

Many local leaders attended the service, and some elders were unable to contain their emotions, crying and sobbing quietly.

Presiding over the ceremony, Bishop John Ndabula prayed with the community, asking them to abide by Mandela's parting and the great bereavement being experienced by the country and the world.

The country should reap the fruits of his "soul," he said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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