Pretoria — African National Congress (ANC) stalwarts have gathered at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to bid farewell to former President Nelson Mandela.
Today the remains of Madiba will be flown back to Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday.
Addressing the opening of the send-off event, ANC treasurer general Dr Zweli Mkhize thanked government and the Mandela family for affording the party an opportunity to say goodbye to Madiba, who spent most of his life serving the party.
Interfaith organisations are present at the ceremony to offer prayers, while President Jacob Zuma, seated in the front row, is flanked by Mandela's widow, Graca Machel and former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Party heavy weights and Madiba's family are also present at the ceremony.
According to ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, over 2 000 people making up the leadership and membership of the alliance are part of the send-off ceremony.
President Jacob Zuma and leaders of the alliance will deliver tribute speeches on the life and legacy of Madiba, Mthembu said.
Madiba is set to embark on his last journey, accompanied by family elders, to Qunu at 10:45am.
The delegation will include Graca Machel and Winnie Madikizela Mandela.
They will land in Mthatha at about 12.45pm, where his body will be met by other members of the family and members of the abaThembu nation.
All Thembu traditions would be observed once the body arrives at Mthatha Airport.
Madiba will be buried in Qunu in a funeral that will be attended by several heads of state, such as Presidents from Malawi and Tanzania, Lesotho's King Letsie III and UK's Prince Charles of Wales.