Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Africa: Mandela Memorial Shifts to Processions, Lying in State

The body of late South African president Nelson Mandela is lying in state in Pretoria, a day after a memorial service brought more than 60,000 people out to honor the anti-apartheid leader.

People cheered and waved along the route of a procession Wednesday that carried Mandela's remains from a military hospital to the Union Buildings, the country's official seat of government.

The site is where he was sworn in as South Africa's first black president in 1994, after spending 27 years in prison for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.

Members of Mandela's family viewed his body there Wednesday morning, and the public will be able to pay their respects through Friday. His remains will be taken back to the hospital each night and the procession repeated Thursday and Friday morning.

Mourners sang and danced in tribute to Mandela at Tuesday's memorial service in Johannesburg, where speakers praised his role in ending apartheid and healing South Africa's racial divisions.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Mandela's passing is an enormous loss.

"South Africa has lost a hero. You have lost a father. The world has lost a beloved friend and mentor. Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time; he was one of our greatest teachers," said Ban.

President Barack Obama said Mandela, and South Africa, showed how fights for freedom and human rights can be won.

"Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows that is true. South Africa shows we can change. That we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity," said Obama.

South African President Jacob Zuma noted the service took place on the 20th anniversary of Mandela's being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In an interview with VOA, Pierre Nkurunziza, president of Burundi, praised Mandela for his spirit of reconciliation. He said Mandela played a crucial role in the signing and implementation of a 2000 peace agreement for Burundi.

Ten days of memorials and events will culminate in Mandela's burial on December 15, in his boyhood home village of Qunu.

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