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South Africans Visit Nelson Mandela's Body To Say Final Goodbye

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NY1's Dean Meminger is filing reports from South Africa as the country and the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - The body of Nelson Mandela is now lying in state in South Africa.

Thousands waited for hours on several streets of the capital. They all wanted a chance to view the body of the man they say helped to free blacks and other people of color from the racist white rules of Apartheid.

Mandela's flag-draped casket was escorted Wednesday morning into the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as South Africa's first black president 19 years ago.

The government has built a structure inside the courtyard of the Union Buildings, where mourners are viewing the body and paying their respects.

Buses are bringing some people up to the union buildings for the viewing.

Others walk up a steep hill to finally say their goodbyes to the former president. In an open casket, covered by protective plastic, he is wearing one of his trademark patterned shirts.

Many say he looks like the man they remember.

NY1's Dean Meminger spoke with some people who came to see Mandela's body.

"I think this is a moment for everybody to reciprocate in one way, but also I think it is a moment when people then say this person has done what God has sent them to do in the world, now it is up us to take the mantle,” said a mourner.

"My heart is bleeding, it is so sad, so sad to see Madiba. Life robbed us from our icon,” said a second mourner.

They said it was important for them to come out for a man considered an icon and a hero in South Africa and across the world.

"I was like, 'Yeah, this is it, and we'll never see him again,'" said a third. "But he has done a lot for us, and we'll forever remember that, and not only remember, but also make sure that we take his legacy forward."

As people continue to pay their respects to Mandela, crews are erecting a huge statue of him on the grounds of this government property where other heroes of South Africa are honored.

Mandela's body will lie in state until Friday. On Saturday there will be a traditional tribal ceremony for him.

Sunday he will be buried in the town of Qunu where he grew up.

He chose the site so his body could be in a place he loved and in a family cemetery.

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