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VVIPs visit Madiba's coffin

Madiba's remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings until Friday before his funeral in Qunu on Sunday.

The body of former president Nelson Mandela arrived at the Union Buildings in Pretoria after a procession from 1 Military Hospital on 11 December 2013. Picture: SAPA.

PRETORIA - Former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Ndaba has told Eyewitness News that yesterday's memorial service at FNB Stadium has filled the family with pride and assured them that they are not alone in their grief.

Ndaba was at the Union Buildings this morning where Mandela's body is lying in state.

He said although it's difficult, it enables people to have closure.

"I would just ask that people don't just walk past, but stop for two seconds and look at the casket."

Fifty four heads of state are still in the country and will be part of the thousands who will spend a moment viewing Mandela's body at the Union Buildings.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation's Clayson Monyela says logistically it has been tough, but the department hasn't encountered any major problems yet.

Monyela says other heads of state are still en route to South Africa.

"Other heads of state and government will arrive on Friday to attend the funeral. 54 are still in the country and part of today's viewing at the Union Buildings."

President Jacob Zuma will host those still in the country for a special lunch today along with the Madiba family to thank them for their support.

Several dignitaries and government officials including Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former president Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have joined the Mandela family this morning at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Madiba died last week at the age of 95 after a long struggle with a recurring lung infection.

His flag-draped coffin arrived at the Union Buildings at around 8am and was met by his grandson Mandla, before being escorted into the newly named Nelson Mandela Amphiteatre.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu and Minister in the Presidency for National Planning Trevor Manuel have also been to pay their respects.

President Zuma led the delegation as they were led one by one through the structure.

Family and VVIPS had until noon to view the remains after which the public pay their respects.

Tomorrow and Friday the public will have access from 8am until 5pm.

The global icon's remains will be transported daily from the 1 Military Hospital to the Union Buildings.

A procession will leave the 1 Military Hospital at 7am.

It will pass by Thaba Tshwane and arrive at the Union Buildings just before 8am.

South African Defence Force seen outside the Union Buildings lawn on 11 December 2013. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

THE AMPHITHEATRE

Inside the mobile wooden structure, the coffin is placed on a pedestal and covered in white linen.

Only a glass shield covers Mandela's upper body to make it possible for everyone to come and view.

No one is allowed to take pictures of Madiba once inside the structure.

The casket is being guarded by four navy officials inside the structure while police are keeping a close watch of the entire area.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane says the park and ride service will be used by everyone who wants to view Mandela's body including heads of state and dignitaries.

Cameras, including cellphones, will not be allowed at the Union Buildings.

Earlier this morning, the area was cleared by police and sniffer dogs.

During yesterday's memorial service, President Jacob Zuma announced the amphitheatre where Madiba was inaugurated in 1994, and where his body will lie in state, has been renamed the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre.

CELEBRATIONS IN THE STREETS

The traffic-free zone around the Union Buildings has taken on a celebratory atmosphere as people gather to pay their respects to Madiba.

Hundreds have gathered in the streets and have been singing songs, carrying posters of Mandela and waving South African flags.

Government has invited members of the public to form a guard of honour each morning along the route as his body is transported to the seat of government.

Hundreds of people lined the streets from early this morning to try catch a glimpse of the motorcade and pay their respects.

The crowd of people cheered and sang songs as the convoy went by and some motorists abandoned their cars to come witness the historical moment, causing substantial traffic in the Pretoria CBD.

A group of women sang songs about Madiba from 6am and continued to do so after the motorcade passed through the streets.

Many didn't get to see the coffin carrying Mandela's body.

One woman said she'll line along the streets again tomorrow in the hopes the convoy will drive slower.

An Afrikaner woman said she's afraid of what will happen to South Africa now that Mandela has died.

"I can speak for myself and a lot of South Africans that we are scared of what's going to happen now because he was the one holding the land together."

A group of Tshwane Metro Police bikes led the motorcade from the 1 Military Hospital followed by 15 military police officers dressed in full uniform on their bikes.

Military personnel lined the road outside the facility.

Standing at attention, they saluted South Africa's first democratically elected president.

The procession was followed by a dozen or so military vehicles and an Air Force Oryx helicopter.

Meanwhile, Mandela's state funeral will take place in Qunu, Eastern Cape on 15 December.

Chabane said although the public can head to Qunu to be in the area for Madiba's funeral, they won't be able to get close to the formal gathering.

He said he understands why people would want travel there, but logistically, only invited guests and family can be accommodated.