Mandela goodbye for ANC members ahead of state funeral

Highlights of the ANC's send-off memorial for Nelson Mandela

Members of the African National Congress have paid final tributes to Nelson Mandela at a ceremony ahead of Sunday's funeral.

President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders attended the event, which included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute.

Afterwards, Mr Mandela's coffin began the journey by air and road to his ancestral home at Qunu.

It is being accompanied by family members and officials.

At least 100,000 people saw the former South African president's body lying in state in Pretoria over the last three days, but some had to be turned away.

The aircraft carrying Nelson Mandela's body takes off in Pretoria

The 95-year-old former leader died on 5 December.

'Exuberant'

More than 1,000 members of the ANC, which Mr Mandela once led, attended the ceremony at the Waterkloof air base in Pretoria.

US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and Ireland's Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams were among the foreign guests invited.

At the scene

It was an exuberant send-off for Nelson Mandela. Members of the ANC sang and danced as though it was an election victory celebration.

The vast air force hangar was bedecked with the black, green and gold colours of the ANC. People wore white T-shirts with the words Rest in peace, Tata!

President Jacob Zuma dwelled on the history of the ANC, the party which Nelson Mandela joined when he first came to Johannesburg at the age of 25.

The names of ANC stalwarts of the past were remembered, those activists drawn together in no small part by loyalty to the icon of their struggle - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Mourners heard President Zuma pay his own tribute to Nelson Mandela, calling him a "towering figure", "a man of action" and a "democrat who understood the world."

"Yes, we will miss him... He was our father, he was our guardian. He was something special."

"We'll always keep you in our hearts," Mr Zuma said.

The coffin is being flown to Mthatha airport in the Eastern Cape ahead of the burial in Qunu.

The C130 military aircraft carrying the coffin was escorted by two fighter jets after take-off.

Chief mourners from Mandela's Thembu clan and family, as well as senior government officials, would be accompanying the coffin, army officials said.

However his widow Graca Machel, and former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were travelling on a separate flight, in accordance with Thembu tradition.

A military guard of honour will welcome the flight in Mthatha, and the coffin will be placed on a gun carriage and transported to a hearse.

People have been invited to form a human chain to pay their last respects as the cortege makes its way to Qunu.

Interactive guide

Child in Qunu

In Qunu, the Thembu community will conduct a traditional ceremony in a giant white marquee that has been specially erected.

Some 4,000 people, including presidents from Africa, several prime ministers, the Iranian vice-president, and the Prince of Wales, are expected to attend.

On Friday, the South African government said in a statement that "the third day closed with over 50,000 paying their respects to our national icon and first democratically elected president of our country".

Shortly before the lying in state came to an end, at 17:45 local time (15:45 GMT), hundreds of people towards the front of the queue pushed through in the hope to be one of the last through the door.

One police officer told the AFP news agency: "There are too many people. The whole of the Republic of South Africa wants to say goodbye."

Many people waited in the queue for 11 hours for the chance to see Nelson Mandela's body.

Some were angry more time had not been allowed for this ceremonial; others said even if they could not reach his coffin for a personal farewell it was enough simply to be there.

People wait at roadside People waited on roadsides for a glimpse of Nelson Mandela's coffin being taken to the special ANC send-off at Waterkloof air base early on Saturday morning
President Zuma flanked by Grace Machel (left) Members of the Mandela family remained with the coffin through the ceremony
ANC service About 1,000 members of the ANC, which Nelson Mandela once led, attended the special celebration
Spectators dance during the send-off at Waterkloof air base As well as speeches, there were songs and dancing
People light candles during a visit at Robben Island, off Cape Town, for an all night vigil to commemorate Nelson Mandela. Photo: 13 December 2013 Earlier mourners lit candles during an all-night vigil at Robben Island's prison, where Nelson Mandela had spent 18 of his 27 years in jail.
People queue for busses before heading to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa During three days of public viewing to see the coffin, long queues of people formed

Correspondents who visited the coffin said Mr Mandela's body could be seen through a glass screen, dressed in one of his trademark patterned shirts.

At each end of the casket stood two navy officers clad in white uniforms, with their swords pointing down.

A national day of reconciliation will take place on 16 December when a statue of Mr Mandela will be unveiled at the Union Buildings.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of South Africans joined scores of world leaders for a national memorial service as part of a series of commemorations for Mr Mandela.

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