JOHANNESBURG — Tens of thousands of South Africans are expected to line the streets of Pretoria in the coming days as Nelson Mandela’s body is borne daily to the Union Buildings, the seat of national government, to lie in state.
Mandela’s coffin will travel from Pretoria’s main military hospital and back each day for three days, offering the public perhaps the best opportunity to personally bid farewell to the beloved former president and human rights icon who died Thursday.
As government officials spelled out tight security arrangements, strictly limiting public access to major memorial events, they sought to preempt disappointment by urging South Africans to watch the events on large video screens that will be placed in major locations around the country.
Many foreign dignitaries will attend a memorial service Tuesday at the 90,000-seat soccer stadium in Soweto. Much of the seating is likely to be allocated to VIPs and members of Mandela’s African National Congress, bused in from around South Africa.
A two-mile security cordon will be placed around Qunu, Mandela’s home village, where he is to be buried Dec. 15. Only the state-controlled broadcast network SABC and a government photographer will be allowed to attend on behalf of the media. Members of the public are expected to line the roads again when his body travels from the airport to his final resting place in Qunu.
Nine thousand people are scheduled to attend the state funeral, including heads of state and dignitaries from around the world.
Access to the Union Buildings also will be tightly controlled, with government officials foreshadowing “some form of accreditation process” for the public seeking to see Mandela lying in state, without spelling out details. It was not clear how this could be organized.
Government officials are encouraging members of the public to line the route rather than to try to get into the Union Buildings, where cell phones and cameras will be strictly banned.