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Mandela's body arrives for viewing in South Africa

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- A flag-draped casket containing the body of Nelson Mandela arrived with a military honor guard Wednesday for display in an amphitheater where he was sworn in 19 years ago as South Africa's first black president.
Army helicopters had been circling overhead but then a sudden quiet fell over the amphitheater as the hearse arrived. Eight warrant officers representing the various services and divisions of the South African National Defense Force carried the casket, led by a military chaplain in a purple stole. The officers set down the coffin and removed the flag.
Motorcycle-riding police officers had escorted the hearse from a military hospital outside of Pretoria to the Union Buildings.
"I just hope I won't cry," said Paul Letageng, 47, an employee there. "It's amazing to think that 19 years ago he was inaugurated there, and now he's lying there. If he was not here we would not have had peace in South Africa."

Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison under the white racist government in 1990, appealed for forgiveness and reconciliation and became president in 1994 after the country's first all-race democratic elections.

People lined the streets to watch the procession drive slowly to the Union Buildings. They sang old songs from the struggle against the apartheid regime and called out their farewells to Mandela, who died Dec. 5 at the age of 95. Traffic was backed up for several kilometers (miles) on a highway leading into Pretoria.

President Jacob Zuma named the amphitheater after Mandela by decree Tuesday. The Union Buildings, described by the South African government as a "modern-day acropolis," sit atop a hill overlooking Pretoria. The architect who designed it envisioned its two wings, made of half a million cubic feet (14,100 cubic meters) of stone, representing the Afrikaans and English languages spoken in the country - but none of the land's native languages.

Even from its inception, the building long has been considered a symbol of governance in the country - and of apartheid until Mandela took office.

Mandela's grandson Mandla and Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula led mourners into the viewing area. After casket bearers left, four junior officers in white uniform from the South African navy remained to keep watch over the body, rotating position every hour.

Mandela's body will lie in state for three days. It has a glass cover allowing mourners to look in on Mandela one last time. Officials have banned cameras from the viewing area and people are being asked to turn off their mobile phones.

Mandela family members, his wife Graca Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Zuma all attended the viewing Wednesday. Other world leaders were expected to pass by his coffin.

Each day, Mandela's coffin will be driven back to 1 Military Hospital to be held overnight. Authorities have asked the public to line the street as an honor guard for each trip.

Mandela's body will be flown Saturday to Qunu, his home in the Eastern Cape Province. He will be buried Sunday.

On Tuesday, world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama eulogized Mandela. In his speech, Obama called Mandela "the last great liberator of the 20th century."

"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," Obama said. "But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world - you can make his life's work your own."

Gambrell reported from Johannesburg.

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dal December 11 2013 at 6:09 AM

Thank you AOL for allowing me to comment without having to create a facebook account, I don't need one, don't want one, and sure the hell won't be forced to have one.

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1 reply
JOSEPH dal December 11 2013 at 6:36 AM


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Tonya December 11 2013 at 7:11 PM

Godspeed Nelson Mandela, your influence, your legacy will live on

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LJIMENEZ1307 December 11 2013 at 1:54 PM

a good man was and is; john f. kennedy, ronald reagan, bill clinton, villaraigosa, pancho villa and emiliano zapata..

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Hello, Mary December 11 2013 at 7:01 PM

So ..... we who admired him can't see him once last time?

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1 reply
raceri370 Hello, Mary December 11 2013 at 11:43 PM

yes u can go where hes at in hell lol so go with him

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nerak2822 December 11 2013 at 6:45 AM

What was Obama's disrespectful move today?

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mercymfa December 11 2013 at 11:31 AM

Mandela knew the will of God in is life. now hi is in heaven rejoicing with the angels.

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1 reply
holleyjean7 mercymfa December 11 2013 at 12:22 PM

This is Awesome! Yes, Mr. Mandela had faith in the Sovereignty of God, and has been rewarded in heaven. May the world strive for the love, peace and reconciliation that are greatly needed between humanity.

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brisco18 December 11 2013 at 11:04 AM

Yes, I agree that Obama showed little empathy for the celebration of Nelson Mandela's life. He just couldn't resist talking about himself in his uology, and the "selfie" picture is disgusting. He aacted like a child - and classy Michelle expressed it on her face. At least she know how to act at a funeral celebration. I hope you gave him hell Michelle - and we would be happy if you traded places with him.

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1 reply
Marilyn Suzanne brisco18 December 11 2013 at 12:17 PM

Speak for yourself. I don't want her in any public office in this country. They can both stay in Africa.
She's as much a fraud as he is.

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c2t2beau December 11 2013 at 11:51 AM

I'm surprized Mr O didn't try to uses his power to help carry the casket.

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2 replies
naojf22936 c2t2beau December 11 2013 at 12:25 PM

Keep being surprised....you'll learn a lot with you arrogance and hatred and ignorace and...you pride.

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captnbaja c2t2beau December 11 2013 at 12:59 PM

Well he did take the opportunity to snap a selfie with some prominent white leaders just to be on the safe side. Lol!

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1 reply
Nan captnbaja December 11 2013 at 3:44 PM

Does it come natural to you, or do you have to work hard to be such an arrogant, pompous, know-it-all? Perhaps they offer an online course in such ignorance. Mr. Mandela was not a saint, he was a human being, a mere mortal with flaws just like any other man, including you. However, he understood that ALL people, regardless of the color of their skin, should be treated equally and fairly under the law. I am a 58 y.o. white woman, and when I moved to the South from N.Y. in '75, I saw firsthand how prevalent racism was, and still is, how it destroys lives, & how utterly deplorable it is. Those who discriminate against anyone who is not like themselves are simply ignorant. Fighting ignorance can be one of the most difficult fights anyone can undertake. Mr. Mandela chose to fight ignorance and tried to bring all S. Africans together as one people. He was not perfect, but, at least he didn't sit on his hands and just complain about others. If you're not part of the solution, you're the problem.

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ippikiokami1 December 11 2013 at 10:58 AM

The amphitheater was half empty. The left wing news media was careful not to show the
empty seats.

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1 reply
oldalto ippikiokami1 December 11 2013 at 12:43 PM

I imagine some of the relatives of people dead because of Mandela's bombing missions might not be viewing him in such saintly and angelic terms and weren't interested in all the adulation.

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donstillings December 11 2013 at 1:21 PM

South African apartheid is over, and that's good because it was largely based on race, and racism is bad. However, here in the US we have an apartheid that is ongoing, and isn't so easily identified because it doesn't follow racial lines. Our apartheid is, however LIKE racism, based on the situation of birth and nothing else, that is, that the wealthy will always be rich and the poor will always be poor, and in my opinion this is just as bad as any racism that there ever was. Consider this metaphoric example: I am a poor person and I own a home on a small plot of land. Down the road lives a rich person. Under our land is oil. I have no means by which to extract the oil, but the rich man does. He then sinks a well and pulls oil not only from under his own land but also from under mine. If there was justice in our land, he would be prosecuted for theft of my oil. But in the US he has the right to do it and there is nothing that I can do to stop him. Consider this second metaphoric example: I am a reasonably intelligent person born on a small farm. My neighbor is dumb as a rock but born to a father who owns a law firm and is wealthy. My neighbor and I both go to college and law school, but his school is paid for by his father while mine is paid with student loans from a bank partly owned by his father. Upon getting our law licenses, he builds his practice at his father's law firm and becomes wealthy like his father, and I struggle with my practice and make just enough money to pay the student loans, which earn his father even more money through twenty years worth of interest payments. Where is the opportunity for me to become wealthy? Where is the justice? Where is our Mandela?

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2 replies
ewing1936charles donstillings December 11 2013 at 1:53 PM

You live in the wrong country at the wrong time..

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Karen donstillings December 11 2013 at 2:45 PM

If you are not wealthy it is your own fault. You use a poor excuse to make your point. There are lot's of poor people who were poorer than you that have made millions. I guess you just don't have the either the work ethic or the smarts that these people have. But don't blame anyone but yourself for your situation.

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1 reply
donstillings Karen December 11 2013 at 5:54 PM

The examples that I gave were metaphoric examples, and you have somehow confused them with my own life. Perhaps you skipped school the day the taught the other children to read.

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