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Thousands queue up to view Mandela

TENS of thousands of mourners, some breaking through police barriers, have flocked to South Africa's central government buildings to say goodbye to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on the final day of his lying in state.

Such was the crush of people wanting to see Mr Mandela's body in the Union Buildings in the capital Pretoria, that the government had asked others to stay away from the park-and-ride facilities set up to take mourners to the area. It said: "We cannot guarantee every person who is presently in the queues at the various centres will be given access to the Union Buildings."

At least 50,000 people were waiting at park-and-ride points by early yesterday morning and officials later estimated 100,000 had queued to see the body.

There were moments of tension as police tried to turn mourners away. At the Pretoria Showgrounds, one of the park-and-ride gathering points, the crowd broke through the metal entrance gate when officers tried to stop people coming through. Some fell to the ground and hundreds streamed past before order was restored.

On another access road, police had to force back people trying to break through crowd barriers.

Mourner Ilse Steyn said: "I am really angry, we tried for two days now to see Mr Mandela and thank him for changing this country and bringing us together. Now we have to go home with heavy hearts."

The body of South Africa's first black president was lying in state for a third and final day before being flown today to the Eastern Cape for tomorrow's funeral at his ancestral home in Qunu.

Filing past the coffin, mourners viewed the body laid out in a green and gold batik shirt, a style he wore and had made famous. His face was visible.

The huge turnout surpassed the two previous days. About 21,000 people paid their respects on Wednesday and 39,000 on Thursday.

The week of mourning since Mr Mandela's death on December 5 at the age of 95 has seen an unrivalled outpouring of emotion for the statesman and Nobel peace laureate, who was honoured by a host of world leaders at Tuesday's memorial service.

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