Nelson Mandela: World leaders pay respect in Pretoria

The body of Mr Mandela will be lying in state for three days

World leaders today paid their respects before the flag-draped casket containing the body of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon and first black president of South Africa.

The body of Mr Mandela is currently lying in state in the grounds of the Union Buildings in Pretoria and will remain there for three days.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and South African President Jacob Zuma were among leaders who passed by the casket in two lines. Four junior naval officers in white uniforms kept watch.

Mr Mandela's widow Graca Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other family members viewed his body as it lay in a glass-top coffin while hundreds lined up to pay their respects as three days of mourning in the executive capital began.

Singer Bono of the band U2 and model Naomi Campbell were also present. Ms Campbell appeared visibly upset after paying her final respects.

Crowds watched motorcycle-riding police officers as they escorted the hearse from a military hospital outside of Pretoria to the Union Buildings. People lined the streets to watch the procession as it left 1 Military Hospital just after 5am GMT, singing songs from the struggle against the apartheid regime and calling out their farewells to Mandela as it passed, who died on 5 December at the age of 95.

The coffin travelled along Kgosi Mampuru Street and Madiba Street on the way to the Union Buildings.

Police blocked traffic, backing up cars for several kilometers (miles) on a highway leading into Pretoria.

Eight warrant officers representing the various services and divisions of the South African National Defense Force carried the casket, led by a military chaplain in a purple stole. The officers set down the coffin and removed the flag.

Officials have banned cameras from the viewing area and asked people to turn off their mobile phones.

Each day Mr Mandela's coffin will be driven back to 1 Military Hospital to be held overnight. Authorities have asked the public to line the street as an honor guard for each trip.

Mr Mandela's body will be flown to Qunu, his home in the Eastern Cape Province on Saturday. He will be buried on Sunday.

Mr Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison to become president in 1994 after the country's first all-race democratic elections. He gave his inaugural address from the amphitheater, which Zuma named after him by decree.

Mr Mandela said at his inauguration: “Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.”

On Tuesday, world leaders including United States President Barack Obama eulogised Mandela. In his speech, Obama called Mr Mandela “the last great liberator of the 20th century.”

“We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Obama said. “But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world — you can make his life's work your own.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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