ANC pays tribute to Madiba

The ANC hosted a special send-off at Waterkloof Air Force base this morning.

Nelson Mandela - The legend. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Former president Nelson Mandela is being celebrated and remembered by the ANC at a special send-off at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria.

Madiba's casket has been draped in the ruling party's flag for the ceremony that is being attended by around 2,000 people.

Nelson Mandela's casket draped in the South African flag arrives at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria on 14 December 2013. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

Graca Machel, President Jacob Zuma and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

Mandla Mandela looks at the coffin of his late grandfather, Nelson Mandela during a send-off ceremony held at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria on 14 December 2013. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the send-off ceremony. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

Former president Thabo Mbeki and Jesse Jackson at the Nelson Mandela's send-off ceremony. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

President Jacob Zuma has deployed more than 11,000 members of the army to assist in transporting Madiba's body.

Madiba's body was brought to the base from 1 Military Hospital earlier this morning and will be flown to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape ahead of his official state funeral in the village of Qunu tomorrow.

From senior ANC officials and alliance partners to party members wearing branch t-shirts and makarapas in the colours of the national flag, hundreds have come to bid Mandela farewell.

More people continue to shuffle into Hanger Charlie which has been decked out in the colours of the ANC.

Six Umkhonto we Sizwe pallbearers are standing guard at Madiba's casket.

This morning's ceremony began with the singing of the national anthem and various religious leaders have delivered interfaith prayers.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Communist Party and the South African National Civic Organisation have delivered messages of support sending condolences to the family and praised the father of the nation for his contribution to the struggle against oppression.

Mandela's grandson Mandla, who stood vigil while he was lying in state, delivered an obituary from the family, but opened his speech with a lighter moment.

"I used to hear youth in Soweto shouting, Amandla! And I used to think I was the popular kid because my name was being shouted."

Mandla went through a history and timeline of his grandfather's life and the lessons he taught the world.

"Yet it was also through Mandela that the world would learn the spirit of endurance, the triumph of forgiveness and the beauty of reconciliation."

Madiba's former personal assistant and the ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte quoted the icon.

"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world."

Cosatu deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali who says Mandela conducted his life's work with excellence.

"We have come here today to give our final send-off to an activist, a cadre, a revolutionary, a soldier, a legend who together with the collective leadership of the ANC did his work with exceptional devotion and excellence."

Once the service has been concluded, Mandela's remains will be handed back to the military and flown to Mthatha.

A procession will accompany his body to his hometown and final resting place in Qunu, a small village a round 36km away from Mthatha.

Family spokesperson General Temba Matanzima says family members will accompany Madiba on the journey.

"In this difficult journey of our father back home, Mama Graca Machel, Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, other family members and elders of our clan will be at his side."

The plane will be met by clan elders and a cultural receiving ceremony will be conducted.

The military will also hold an exercise.

A motorcade will then make its way through Mthatha towards Qunu to allow the people of the Eastern Cape to say goodbye.

On the route from Mthatha, police cars are already dotted all over the place as they wait for people to come and form a human chain along the entire route.

Madiba's remains will be kept by elders at his family home until tomorrow's funeral service.

To view all the road closures and a general overview of protocol in Qunu and Mthatha, click here.