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Madiba's journey home begins

Mandela's body will be transported from Waterkloof to the Eastern Cape ahead of his funeral tomorrow.

A hearse carrying the body of former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The ANC are conducting an official send-off ceremony for former president Nelson Mandela this morning at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria before he is flown to Mthatha, Eastern Cape ahead of his official state funeral tomorrow.

Mandela passed away on Thursday 5 December at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.

Over 2,000 people are attending the ceremony including ANC leaders, members of the tripartite alliance, guests, dignitaries and members of the public.

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

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

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.

A poster of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu ahead of his state funeral on 15 December. Picture:EWN.

Dozens of military and police trucks arrive at Mthatha Airport on 13 December 2013 ahead of Nelson Mandela's state funeral on 15 December. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

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.

The white structure that will host Mandela's funeral now appears to be complete.

Around 4,000 people are expected to attend, but only 400 will be allowed at the burial site.

High-profile guests include Prince Charles, Oprah Winfrey and a number of heads of state .

A public vigil will be held in Mthatha this evening at the Walter Sisulu University's Nelson Mandela Drive campus.

Simultaneous vigils will also take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Meanwhile, frustrated residents in the area have voiced their displeasure at the fact that all the main events to honour Madiba have been held in other provinces and that they won't be able to participate in the final ceremony.

But the provincial government says 21 public mourning venues have been established across the province.

At the same time, government has outlined how people will be able to line the streets between Mthatha and Qunu.

Ministers there say the next two days will be very different to what the world has seen in Pretoria, as the arrangements are now entirely up to the family and the military.

Click here for information on road closures around Mthatha.

MANDELA FAMILY THANKS THE NATION

The Mandela family thanked the nation for coming to pay their respects to Madiba over the past few days as he lay in state at the Union Buildings.

Government says over 100,000 people filed passed the former president's body before he left the Union Buildings for the last time yesterday afternoon.

Family spokesperson, General Themba Matanzima, says Mandela's legacy will persist.

"We are of the conviction that his teachings, ideals, values and deep burning desire to serve our people will continue to guide each one of us and the nation as a whole."