Mourners refuse to leave Mandela park-and-ride area


Park-and-ride facilities to view Nelson Mandela's body at Union Buildings have closed, but people have refused to leave the areas.

Park-and-ride facilities for the viewing of Nelson Mandela's body have reached capacity and have been closed. (Reuters)

Police were sent to park-and-ride facilities in Pretoria on Friday afternoon after members of the public refused to leave, despite transport to the Union Buildings being shut down.

"There is no way they can tell us it is closed at Union Buildings for the day ... I saw the news, viewing of Mandela is [until] ... 5pm. It's not even lunchtime now," said Elias Kekana from Atteridgeville, who had been waiting at the park-and-ride facility at the Pretoria Showgrounds.

"What they are doing is not right; they should at least let old people go see him," said Thabo Mphaka (68) who was walking on crutches.

Thousands of people, waiting at the showgrounds to be taken to view former president Nelson Mandela's body lying in state at the seat of government, pointed umbrellas and fingers at Metro police when told the number of people able to be accommodated at the venue had reached capacity.

A Metro police officer at the gate said they had to let the gate remain open, after crowds pushed through it when they tried to close it an hour earlier, before 1pm.

"We tried telling them this park-and-ride is closed, but they won't listen," said another Metro police officer stationed at the showgrounds.

Six police cars arrived at the venue in the early afternoon.

As some of the crowd decided to make the 10km trek to the Union Buildings on foot, they sang struggle songs, while vendors continued to sell Mandela memorabilia and food outside the facility.

Meanwhile, at the Union Buildings, streams of people were still arriving to view the struggle icon's body. This was despite a request by government communication services for members of the public not to go to the Union Buildings and their decision to cancel park-and-ride arrangements by mid-morning on Friday.

"Any additional numbers will make it physically impossible for people to be safely transported to the Union Buildings and get the opportunity to file past the body," said acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams in a statement.

"We cannot guarantee that every person who is presently in the queues at the various centres will be given access to the Union Buildings."

Williams said that by 7.30am, 25 000 people had gathered at the Pretoria Showgrounds park-and-ride, 10 000 at the Fountains Valley Circle, 8 000 at the Union Buildings, and 7 000 at the LC de Villiers Sports Centre.

She said between 12 000 to 14 000 people had viewed Mandela's body on Wednesday and two people had passed the coffin every second on Thursday.

Just before 11am on Friday, government communications chief policy and research director Tasneem Carrim said officials would do their utmost to accommodate people already at the Union Buildings for the third and final day in which the former president's body would lie in state, but added, "there are just so many hours in a day".

Friday is the third and final day in which Mandela's body will lie in state. Thereafter it will be transported to Qunu, where a state funeral will take place on Sunday in the rural area in which Mandela spent much of his childhood.

He died last Thursday at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, at the age of 95.

'Heavy feeling'
Meanwhile, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a UK TV interview on Thursday that she was felt "very blessed" to have been with the former president when he died. reported she described in the broadcast with ITV news that there was a "heavy feeling" around her ex-husband's death.

She said the most difficult part since his passing was when the military arrived to move Mandela's body and she realised "he was leaving the house for good", adding that "one never prepares for death".

Madikizela-Mandela also said it was "very hard for the family to even share him even in his death after sharing with the while world and our whole country while he was alive".

On Thursday, grandson Mandla Mandela stood to the side at the structure where the body lay. Dressed in black, he contrasted sharply against the elaborate white floral displays beside him.

Earlier he softly mouthed the words of the national anthem as a military band played. He has remained with his grandfather's body every day. According to AbaThembu tradition, an adult male family member must remain with the body until burial.

Long queues have marked the previous two days as tens of thousands of South Africans gathered to say their final farewell.

The City of Tshwane said over 20 000 people arrived at the Union Buildings and park-and-ride facilities were shut down early on Thursday after the venues reached capacity.

Government communication services put attendance figures at 12 000 to 14 000 for Wednesday, the first day in which Mandela lay in state.

On Friday, several memorial services will take place throughout the country to honour the former president. – Additional reporting by Staff Reporter

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