Sixteen thousand people queued in a line stretching over 1km at the LC De Villiers Sports Grounds, one of three park-and-ride stations in Pretoria, to catch a bus to see the body of Nelson Mandela lying at the Union Buildings today.
Many arrived as early as 6am in order to book their place in the queue which snaked around the sports ground.
Mandela’s body will be held for one more day for public viewing from sunrise to sunset before his state funeral, which will be held in his hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape on 15 December.
Sisters Amanda and Charmain Mabena were among the thousands who had been standing since 7am patiently waiting for the bus ticket to get to the Union buildings. The two students had travelled from Bronkhorstspruit, a 40 minute drive from the capital city, just to grab a glimpse of the body of the struggle hero.
Five hours later, at 1pm, they had just reached the front of the line to leave for the buildings.
“We had to do it. It is something special for the both of us. I was born a few days after Mandela had been released from prison in 1990, so for me in particular his death is linked to my life,” said Amanda.
The Mabenas were lucky to be where they were in the line while others, who arrived at 1pm, were being turned away at the gates of the stadium because the queue was too long. It stretched over 8,000 people at that time.
Rumours of delays at the Union Buildings were caused by severe traffic in the area as well as the complication of having to scan each commuter at the various park-and-ride stations. It was confirmed by police at the sports ground that the metal detector had been malfunctioning throughout the morning at the grounds.
As the afternoon progressed 30 buses (some double decked) were put on the shuttle route from the grounds. Thousands were shipped to the Union Buildings where they will wait in another queue to see the body. Two thousand viewers were expected to pass by the former president’s coffin per hour.
A frustrated commuter said he left the queue, at midday, after waiting for five hours to see Madiba.
He said he had not seen any bus shuttles leaving the sports grounds for over an hour and estimated that he would never make the cut off.