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Night vigils held for Madiba

South Africans held night vigils around the country on Saturday night.

Capetonians gathered on the Grand Parade on Saturday 14 December for a night vigil to honour Tata Madiba. Picture: Mia Spies/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Night vigils were held across the country ahead of Nelson Mandela's funeral today.

The late former president will be laid to rest later this morning at his ancestral home of Qunu.

A vigil was held at the Grand Parade in the Cape Town CBD, his Houghton home in Johannesburg and in Mthatha.

GRAND PARADE

There was a festive atmosphere as Capetonians focused on celebrating the father of the nation's life.

Some who were at the Grand Parade say it was their way of paying their last respects to Tata Madiba, a man who meant so much to South Africa and the world.

Many arrived with their children to pay homage to Madiba and celebrated as local favourites like Freshly Ground, Jimmy Nevis and Arno Carstens took the stage to celebrate Mandela's life.

One woman said, "My daughter was born eight years ago and I brought her here tonight to see who this man is and why everyone is coming together."

Capetonians are encouraged to return to the Grand Parade this morning to watch Madiba's funeral on big screens at the parade.

HOUGHTON

A storm broke and then it passed and those gathered outside Mandela's Houghton home on Friday night relit the candles of the make-shift memorial.

Some feel today will bring closure for the country, others say it's still surreal to think Madiba has died.

One man said, "It's going to be a long time before people are able to come to terms and understand what's happened."

But gratitude for him and his actions was a pervading emotion throughout the informal vigil.

A little boy paying tribute said, "He made the whole country a better place. Before that it was bad and then it just became very nice."

SOWETO

Thousands of candles were lit by people in Soweto, with many discussing the former president's vital contribution in shaping the rainbow nation.

Hundreds of Soweto residents celebrated Madiba's life outside his first Johannesburg home in Vilakazi Street.

Scores braved the cold weather to pay their last respects outside the Mandela Museum and sang, danced and chanted political slogans that paid homage to global icon.

Mourners in attendance said they wanted to pay tribute to Madiba for the last time.