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Presidents, Public View Mandela Lying in State

Thousands of mourners are paying last respects to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, as his body lies in state in the South African capital.

Mr. Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and current South African President Jacob Zuma were among those who filed past the casket on Wednesday.

The glass-covered casket is the amphitheater of the Union Buildings, South Africa's official seat of government.

The site is the same place where Mr. Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first black president in 1994, after being imprisoned for 27 years for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.

Former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and F.W. de Klerk viewed the casket Wednesday, as did presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Salva Kiir of South Sudan.

Some mourners bowed their heads and cried as they looked at Mr. Mandela's body.

The anti-apartheid icon is dressed in one of his trademark "batik" shirts from Indonesia. Visitors can see Mr. Mandela's face and the colorful brown and yellow shirt through the glass casing but his lower body is covered.

The public will be allowed to pay their respects at the site through Friday. Mr. Mandela's burial takes place Sunday, in his childhood hometown of Qunu.



On Tuesday, more than 60,000 people turned out to honor Mr. Mandela at a memorial service in Johannesburg.

Some mourners sang and danced in tribute to Mr. Mandela while speakers praised his role in ending apartheid and healing South Africa's racial divisions.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Mr. 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."



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

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

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