In Pictures: One last glance of Madiba

Al-Jazeera-

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Pretoria from as early as 4am, for a chance to catch a last glimpse of their hero. Dressed in colourful attire, in hats and scarves, and holding banners that paid homage to South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, many waited for seven hours to catch a final glimpse of the late leader. The queue snaked slowly through the streets of the South African capital under an unrelenting sun, reaching the Union Buildings, where Mandela’s body is “laying in state” until Friday.

Few, however, seemed to mind the wait. And they were at last rewarded with a sight of Mandela.

Unlike the memorials that are currently being held in churches and at stadiums across the country, there was little singing and dancing around the Union Buildings; just throngs of people patiently waiting for their turn to walk by Mandela’s cherished body.

One woman, with a tattoo of Madiba on her left arm, said that waiting in line for seven hours was a small price to pay for a man who sacrificed 27 years of his life in prison for the country. Another gentleman who traveled from the Limpopo province described Mandela’s contribution as “extraordinary” and said he had come to pay his last respects. Two women, of the “born free” generation, as South Africans born after 1994 are known, said they wanted to show gratitude for the freedom Mandela had secured for them.

The event was dignified, with most police officers showing exemplary consideration in making sure the public was not herded like cattle as they would ordinarily experience in all such encounters with the state.

It was colourful with the informality of Madiba shining through the variety of fashion worn by the thousands in attendance.

It was also a simple experience, just as Madiba would have liked it.

Al Jazeera captures some of the images that defined the day.

 

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

Many had never seen Madiba in the flesh before and were determined to salute his legacy.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera
South African paraphernalia were prevalent as the country regroups.

 

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

“Waiting for seven hours pales in contrast to the 27 years he sacrificed in prison,” said one onlooker.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera
Many smiled despite the long queues, heat and the sombre occasion.
/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

The word “gratitude” was a common theme in conversations with those who had come to pay their respects.

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The constumes were diverse, imaginative and at times, regal.
/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

A large police presence sought to make the experience safe and comfortable for the public.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

Children came by their hundreds as well, holding placards and newspaper cuttings.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

Amid the mourning of Madiba, there has been an emerging expression of patriotism amongst South Africans.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

A surprising number of young South Africans, including some who were not even born during apartheid, attended the event.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

Some South Africans expressed the solemnity of the occasion through sartorial choice.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera
While Madiba is universally loved, white South Africans were few and far between at the Union Buildings.
/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

“I dressed up for Tata,” this woman said.

/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera
The ANC Women’s League also came to show their respects by the bus load.
/Azad Essa/ Al Jazeera

Madiba has always inspired hope for a better future and some seemed insistent on continuing his legacy.

Posted in: Al Jazeera

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