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Crowds honour Madiba in Pretoria

Madiba's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings for three days ahead of his funeral on Sunday.

Nelson Mandela's body is carried by into the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre at the Union Buildings by SANDF soldiers on 11 December 2013. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - It has been a sombre morning across the country as former president Nelson Mandela's body was taken to the Union Buildings in Pretoria where it will lie in state for the next three days.

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

His state funeral will take place in Qunu, Eastern Cape on 15 December.

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

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 catch a glimpse of the motorcade and pay their respects.

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

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.

Members of the South African National Defence Force and the South African Navy lined the amphitheatre as Madiba's casket was carried into the centre of the vast space.

The coffin is now open.

The public will be allowed to view his body from midday today, but only if they use the park and ride facilities provided.

President Zuma and various dignitaries are expected to pay their respects to Mandela before the public is allowed in.

THE AMPHITHEATRE

Communications officials say no one will be allowed near the Union Buildings unless they use the park and ride facilities that have been provided.

A mobile wooden structure, which has been erected in the centre of the amphitheatre, is decorated with bouquets of Saint Joseph's lilies.

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

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

GUARD OF HONOUR

A celebration erupted in the streets as the hearse carrying the global icon's coffin came through the guard of honour this morning.

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 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.

THE ROUTE

Everyday from 11 to 13 December, 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.

Only the Mandela family and VVIPs will be able to view the body today from 10am to 12pm.

Members of the public will then file past the body from 12pm to 5.30pm.

The public will have access to casket from 8am to 5.30pm on Thursday and Friday.