The remains of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela have been transferred to Waterkloof air base for a farewell from the African National Congress (ANC).
The military handed over Mr Mandela’s flag-draped coffin to the ANC at a solemn ceremony broadcast live on South African television. The proceedings included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute to Mr Mandela at the air base.
South African president Jacob Zuma praised Mr Mandela in a detailed recounting of the liberation struggle. He said Mr Mandela had the rare ability to put theory into practice.
“He did something that is not easy to do,” Mr Zuma said.
He also described Mr Mandela coming to Johannesburg from the countryside as a young man and bringing discipline and vision to the long and difficult anti-apartheid movement.
Mr Mandela’s remains were to be returned to military control later. His body will then be flown to the Eastern Cape in preparation for his funeral the following day.
Mr Mandela’s casket is expected to arrive at Mthatha in the Eastern Cape on Saturday afternoon and to be greeted by a full military ceremony.
Rituals will also be performed before a motorcade takes the casket from Mthatha to the village of Qunu where Mr Mandela will be buried on Sunday.
The public has been invited to view the cortege as it makes its way to Qunu. The body will be taken to the Mandela family farm, where more rituals will be performed.
A night vigil by the ANC is planned at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha on Saturday, with party leaders and government officials honouring Mr Mandela on the eve of his burial.
The late president died last week aged 95. His body lay in state for three days this week, drawing huge crowds of South Africans who mourned his death and celebrated his successful struggle against apartheid.
Many were disappointed when they could not view his remains because long lines and traffic problems meant that thousands had to be turned away without paying their final respects.