They came from far and wide to pay their respects and snatch a last glimpse of the man who led their nation out of apartheid and onto the path of unity.
Mourners young and old filed past Nelson Mandela’s body as it lay in state in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk, who was the catalyst for opening the political door to Nelson Mandela said : “My thoughts now are that I hope that his focus on lasting reconciliation will live and will bloom in South Africa.”
After the cavalcade of world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities that assembled on Tuesday to commemorate him, it is now the people’s chance to see their former president off. The depth of sentiment from South Africans of all colours was clear.
One mourner, Mxolisi Maduna, told euronews: “Look, he is an icon. We believe that, especially, he is one person that has done a lot for this country. I mean, he sacrificed his life, his own family for us. So this is one man that was not selfish. His needs came after ours. So it is one of the ways to honour him.”
Lorea Frost also showed up to pay her respects and said: “I think that he was a man who fought for what he believed was right and he turned our country around and that’s important for me.”
The sheer weight of numbers and security checks meant that despite their patience, many were turned away. Mandela’s body will lie in state until Friday however, before the coffin is flown to an air base in Pretoria.
From there it will be taken to his home village of Qunu for a traditional ceremony and then the man they affectionately call ‘Madiba’ will finally be laid to rest.